Mata: Champions League absence can benefit United

The Red Devils will endure a first season outside the Champions League in 18 years next term but the Spaniard believes a lack of distractions could prove an advantage

Juan Mata believes Manchester United’s absence from the Champions League can prove beneficial as they aim to reclaim the Premier League title, holding Liverpool as the example to follow.

Old Trafford will not host Champions League football next season for the first time in 19 years, with United languishing in seventh position in the Premier League – 13 points behind rivals Arsenal, who occupy the fourth and final spot.

United are 18 points adrift of second-placed Liverpool, who have made the most of the absence of European football this season to mount a serious title challenge.

And Mata is hoping to use the Merseyside club as an example as United look to return to the lofty heights of the Premier League table.

“It can definitely be an advantage in the league,” said the Spain international ahead of United’s final game of the season against Southampton.

“Of course, I would rather be playing in the Champions League, but if we take Liverpool as the example — you have a team who have fought all the way to the finish without having played in the Champions League.”

Mata added: “There are huge demands at this club. If you don’t win the league one year, you must win it the next year.

“Next season we have to demonstrate that the club has not lost its essence; has not lost its mentality; has not lost its competitiveness; and it has not lost its identity.”

Next season also means United will have their second manager since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012-13 campaign after David Moyes was sacked in April.

Outgoing Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal is expected to take charge, though Mata refused to speculate on the Dutchman’s chances of getting the job.

“I’ve never met him,” he said.

“I know what kind of history he has, the titles he has won and the kind of football he is playing with Holland.

“But I don’t think it’s good to talk about a coach who is not our manager.”

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