'We understand football in the same way' – Mata 'very happy' to link up with Fernandes at Man Utd

The Red Devils ace is thoroughly enjoying playing alongside the Portuguese playmaker, who has lifted the mood at Old Trafford in recent months

Juan Mata says that he and Bruno Fernandes have already built up a strong relationship at Manchester United based on their shared understanding of the game.

Fernandes has had a huge impact at Old Trafford since completing a €55 million (£49m/$61m) switch from Sporting during the January transfer window, contributing three goals and four assists to the Red Devils’ cause in nine appearances.

His latest assist came during a 5-0 thrashing of LASK in Austria on Thursday, as Odion Ighalo produced a sublime piece of skill and emphatic finish after being found on the edge of the box by an inventive pass from the Portugal international.

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United took full command of the last 16 Europa League tie thereafter, with Daniel James, Mata, Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira all finding the back of the net in the second half.

Mata has already formed an effective partnership with Fernandes in the middle of the park, with the Spaniard insisting that the pair are naturally on the same wavelength.

He also reserved praise for Ighalo, who has had a similarly positive influence on United’s form since joining the club on loan from Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day.

“It’s great to have Bruno in the team, and also Odion who is scoring in almost every single game that he plays,” Mata told MUTV. “They’re great guys, and we’re very happy now with them in the team.

“I think we [me and Fernandes] understand football in the same way. We like to play the same way, passing and moving and giving lines.

“We like playing with each other and looking for our forwards in behind like we did with Dan today and with Odion, who scored a fantastic goal also.”

United’s latest European outing was staged behind closed doors due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, which has already caused major disruptions to the 2019-20 campaign.

Mata went on to admit that the clash with LASK felt like a training session, but he was pleased that United were still able to produce a “professional performance” in such unprecedented circumstances.

“I don’t remember playing behind closed doors before so, of course, it was a different game,” Mata added. “It feels strange. It’s like training, when you play a game in training, there’s no crowd and it felt a little bit the same.

“But of course, your mind is in a competitive mood and you know that it is an official game so we did what we were asked to do, which is to play in these circumstances. We need to act accordingly and trust in the experts and perform like we did today.

“I think we did really well when you look at the score and the performance. It was not easy in the beginning because LASK are a team that press a lot. 

“We didn’t have our best game in terms of passing and controlling, and it wasn’t easy on that pitch with this ball, but at the end of the day we scored five goals, we are happy and ready to come back to Manchester.

“I would say it was a very professional performance so, of course, winning 5-0, we can say that we had a very good first leg. But when we play at Old Trafford we will try to win the game again and play good and try to score and try to enjoy our football like we did today.”