The Spaniard says he cannot imagine another season without European football and has hailed Louis van Gaal's hands-on approach ahead of the new season
United finished seventh in the Premier League last term after David Moyes’s ill-fated 10 months in charge, resulting in the club missing out on a place in the Champions League for the first time in 19 years.
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And Mata, who signed from Chelsea in a £37 million deal in January, believes it is inconceivable that United will miss out on the competition again.
“We are facing a new season with new goals. It’s a new era and we have a new manager and players. It’s a new chance to show that this club can fight for titles. So, yes, it’s time to get back up,” he told the Daily Mail.
“We would all love to win the league but the most important goal - what this club needs - is to play in the Champions League again.
“I cannot imagine a Champions League two years in a row without United.”
Louis van Gaal has built a reputation for being meticulous in his training methods, and a host of United players have already acknowledged – and praised – the changes the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has brought to their sessions.
The 63-year-old’s unique techniques have raised some question marks – including his mentoring of Wayne Rooney in how to take a penalty- but Mata insists that players are warming to the Dutchman’s way of doing things.
“He told Wayne [Rooney] how to shoot, but it’s very good,’ he said.
“He is a manager who feels every session. Not just a game but a training session. To him, it’s all important. He is very into it.
“Sometimes he sees a striker or midfielder not make the right pass, he stops the session and tells them. He loves to do that. He is very temperamental.
“I think the example with Wayne, he was right. If you face the goalkeeper you have to wait for him to go and then put the ball in the other side.
“It’s easy to say it but not so easy to do it when you are in the 88th minute of a game. So you must practise. Everything he says is meant to help.
“You must have an open mind. If you are a professional player, that’s basic. I have had many managers during the past years and I can learn from all of them. Now with Louis van Gaal we have a new way of working and we are all trying to adapt. Even the goalkeeper has an important role in the game-play.”