(Reuters) - Manchester United have the talent to cope with Paul Pogba’s absence during their top-of-the-table showdown with Manchester City, fellow midfielder Juan Mata said ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash.
Pogba, who has scored three league goals and provided five assists in eight appearances for United this season, impressed in the 3-1 win at Arsenal last weekend but was dismissed in the second half for a reckless tackle on Hector Bellerin.
As the Frenchman serves the first of his three-match suspension, Spaniard Mata is confident his team mates can step up and help second-placed United reduce the eight-point gap to their local rivals atop the table.
“He’s a fantastic player... He’s a very complete midfielder, he can do all things. He will be a big miss but another player will play and try his best,” Mata told the British media.
“I think we have a good squad and have good players to replace any other player. Hopefully we can win for him.”
Mata underlined the importance of a United win at Old Trafford, saying that it was vital for the club to build momentum ahead of a busy festive period.
“We are doing what we have to do,” the Spaniard added. “We would love to be first in the table right now but I think we are doing lots of good things.
“Now, especially on Sunday and during Christmas time, which we all know how difficult it is to win every single game, we need to keep that pace if we want to be in a position to challenge for the title... Hopefully we can do it.”
City are favourites to win the league after a 13-game winning streak with some fans and pundits believing Pep Guardiola’s side already have one hand on the trophy, but Mata says it is too early to predict the outcome of the title race.
“Most (of the pundits) have played football and they know how football can change,” Mata added.
“I remember a few seasons ago when United were ahead of City and then they won (on goal difference). It’s a crazy league and it’s too early to think that it’s finished.
“From City, they will tell you the same.”
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru