Juan Mata feels that there is no match in England which compares to the stand-out rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool.
The two great rivals go head-to-head in Saturday’s early kick-off at Anfield as the Premier League returns after the international break, with Liverpool hoping to dent their visitors’ flying start to the season.
United sit joint-top with Manchester City, having picked up 19 points, averaged three goals per game and conceded just twice in seven matches.
But Liverpool – who have 12 points from the same number of games – have been rather more erratic and will be eager give their season the kick-start it needs with victory over Jose Mourinho’s men.
Mata has particularly fond memories of the fixture having scored both goals – including a stunning scissor-kick – in a 2-1 win at Anfield in March 2015.
“Since I came here I always knew the rivalry was big over the years,” the Spaniard told Sky Sports.
“Everyone in the training ground, fans in the street; they remind you that Liverpool is the game.
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“There is no game like this. Through the history there have been great games, big rivalries, and it is a special game to play in, and we feel very lucky to have the chance to play in these games.
“The view from Spain I think is that all of the big Premier League games are viewed similarly. Once you are in England you realise United v Liverpool stands out.
“I have pretty good memories from our games against Liverpool. Every United supporter even now, after a few years, remind me of that goal [the scissor-kick].
“When you play for United and score at Anfield and win the game, it stays in peoples’ minds.”
Mata has no doubt that, even in spite of the two teams’ respective starts to the season, United will be in for a difficult game, and that they will need to “manage” the atmosphere at Anfield if they are to prevail.
“It’s tough,” Mata added. “It’s a tough atmosphere. Obviously, the stadium is full of supporters wanting their team to go over us and win.
“That’s what makes football special. Not speaking about violence at all, but about the atmosphere. You have to have personality to play in these games.
“If we manage to impose ourselves in the game to control the emotions from the crowd, and play good football, I think we have a chance to win.”