Juan Mata: Manchester United should always be in Champions League
Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata has admitted that the club should "always" be in the Champions League and that, if they fail to win one or two games, it is a "big problem."
The Spaniard wore the captain's armband on Wednesday night against Watford -- in the absence of several injured senior players -- and scored the only goal of the game.
That victory has put United level on points with fourth-placed Manchester City, although Louis van Gaal's men have played an extra game. United face West Bromwich Albion away on Sunday afternoon.
When asked about recent criticism, in an interview with Sky Sports, Mata said: "There's always that possibility when you're playing for a club like Manchester United. You have to win every game and, when you don't win one or two games, it is a big problem. You have to deal with it and just try to focus on what you have to do.
"[Champions League] is where I think Manchester United should always be. And now we have two ways to be there, one is through the Premier League and the other is through the Europa League, where we are going through stages and facing a big club like Liverpool.
"We'll try until the end of the season to get this club where it deserves to be and that is in the Champions League. Obviously we need to win almost every game to do that until the end of the season."
Mata is the only United player who has played a part in every Premier League game this season so he has seen the highs and the lows for himself. The midfielder believes that the recent upturn -- in which United have won four in a row in all competitions -- has seen the return of their confidence.
He said: "Since the game against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup, this victory gave us our confidence back. We won a massive game against Arsenal [3-2], and we showed character, intensity and then, in the last game [against Watford], it was tough.
"That's what confidence means for me and any player I think. When you are winning and when you are having good results, it is in a way easier to play your football, and that's what we're doing right now."
Meanwhile, Louis van Gaal insisted that Mata's place as captain was not a tough decision in the absence of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Chris Smalling.
He told MUTV: "Juan is a member of that group with the three captains -- Rooney, Carrick and Smalling -- and [Bastian] Schweinsteiger as well, so it was an easy choice for me."
Arindam is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @ARejSport.