Mata relishing first Manchester derby, hails ‘special atmosphere’

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata in action against West Ham last weekend.

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata is chomping at the bit to play in his first derby when the Red Devils take on City at Old Trafford tonight.

Mata was suspended for United’s 3-0 win over Olympiakos which sent them through to the Champions League quarter-final, but returned to the pitch for their 2-0 victory at West Ham United on Saturday.

And despite only being in United’s camp since January, for a club transfer record of £37.5 million, the Spaniard has already developed a taste for one of the fiercest derbies in the country.

"The team has got confidence and now there is an exciting challenge ahead: our derby against City on Tuesday," Mata said on his personal blog.

"It will be the first one for me and I’m looking forward to it. You can already feel in the streets that special atmosphere."

The last time United lost six games at home was in 1978 and though they could equal this record if they lose to City in midweek, Mata’s spirits remain high.

"Our morale has been boosted ahead of the next games," said Mata.

"I think it is vital to remain mentally strong and focused on our goals. That is how we are going to approach to the last stage of the Premiership. As if every game was a final.

"Next weekend we will play in Old Trafford again, this time Aston Villa. We must get better results at home."

The 25-year-old has played in several positions since his transfer from Chelsea, but United boss David Moyes insists the midfielder will have a huge impact in the game on Tuesday wherever he plays.

"Juan Mata came to play two or three different positions," Moyes said.

"You’re never going to go through a season where you don’t have injuries and that’s why you need a squad of players.

"He’s done well in all the games but on Saturday he was closer to scoring himself and maybe should have on a couple of occasions."