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Man United eye Mata boost Arsenal look to extend lead

LONDON, Jan 27, (AFP): Manchester United supporters will hope to get a first glimpse of record signing Juan Mata on Tuesday when Cardiff City visit Old Trafford in the Premier League. Mata completed a £37.1 million ($61.2 million, 44.8 million euros) move from Chelsea on Saturday and will go straight into the squad to face Cardiff, managed by former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Spain midfielder arrives with United 14 points behind leaders Arsenal after two defeats in three games, while their last home match was a galling penalty shoot-out loss to Sunderland in the League Cup semi-finals. United manager David Moyes has admitted that he was surprised by Chelsea’s willingness to cede Mata in the middle of the campaign, but he is excited by the prospect of seeing him in the champions’ colours. “I’m a bit surprised because it’s not something that tends to happen, especially between Premier League teams,” Moyes told MUTV.

“I was surprised when it happened, but we have got a really exciting player, a player I’m looking forward to working with, a player I think everybody in football looked at and says he did a great job for Chelsea. “I’m looking forward to seeing him in a red jersey and doing it for us.” Mata’s arrival will take some of the attention away from Solskjaer’s return to his former stomping ground, although the Norwegian has greater concerns as he bids to lift Cardiff off the foot of the table. “I looked at it the day I got the job — when we were playing Man United,” said Solskjaer, who spent 11 years at United and scored the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final. “Since then it has been so busy, I haven’t had time to think about it. But now, my focus is of course on that game. It is a dream.”

With closest rivals Manchester City and Chelsea not in action until Wednesday, Arsenal could open up a four-point lead at the summit if they prevail at Southampton on Tuesday. Arsene Wenger’s side cruised into the FA Cup fifth round with a 4-0 defeat of third-tier Coventry City on Friday and are looking to extend a run of five consecutive league victories. Defender Carl Jenkinson says that Arsenal’s players have drawn confidence from a run of six league games in which they have conceded only two goals since crashing 6-3 at City last month. “We have done that very well throughout the last year as a whole, so we just need to keep doing what we are doing, because we are doing something right,” said the English right-back.
“We have the right ingredients to go and win the league.”

Liverpool have fallen off the pace in recent weeks, having topped the table as recently as Christmas Day, and are only in the Champions League places by virtue of goal difference. However, with fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur facing a taxing home game against City on Wednesday, Brendan Rodgers’s side can strengthen their claim to a top-four berth by beating sixth-place city rivals Everton. “It’s going to be a massive derby for us,” said on-loan winger Victor Moses, who scored the opening goal in Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup win over Bournemouth. “We just want to keep working hard together as a team and hopefully, if we can get three points against Everton, it will be key for us.”

City needed a second-half hat-trick from Sergio Aguero as they came from two goals down to beat second-tier Watford 4-2 in the cup on Saturday. The Argentina international now has 25 goals to his name this season and he is refusing to set himself any targets as he bids to spearhead a push for glory on four fronts. “The important thing is the goals contribute to the team’s victory, the team wins, and we win titles,” he said. “I don’t have any specific goals to reach, but as many as possible.” Third-place Chelsea host third-bottom West Ham United on Wednesday, having set up an FA Cup fifth-round clash with City by winning 1-0 at home to Stoke City on Sunday.

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