MANCHESTER, England (AP) - The focus will be on Juan Mata when he makes his Manchester United debut on Tuesday, although a relic from the club’s golden past is heading to Old Trafford looking to steal the spotlight from the Spain midfielder.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played a central role in United’s trophy-laden era under former manager Alex Ferguson, famously scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
It should ensure Solskjaer receives a rapturous welcome when he returns to United as manager of Cardiff, but home fans will be less impressed if he guides the Welsh team to victory in a Premier League match that is crucial to both clubs.
United needs a win to revive its chances of finishing in the top four and making next season’s Champions League. Cardiff, which is in last place, requires three points in its battle to avoid relegation.
Here are five things to know about the upcoming round of midweek Premier League games:
Three days after completing his club-record move to United from Chelsea for 37.1 million pounds ($61.2 million), Juan Mata will be wearing the famous red shirt for the first time against Cardiff.
The playmaker hasn’t played since being substituted in the second half of Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Southampton on Jan. 1, but that won’t stop United manager David Moyes from either starting Mata or bringing him on off the bench.
“Juan’s not too far away from (full) fitness,” Moyes said. “I know he has missed a few games and maybe not started quite as many games as he’d have liked, but I’d like to get him involved against Cardiff.”
The last time Mata played at Old Trafford, he scored the winning goal for Chelsea in its 1-0 victory in May.
Despite his rich history with Man United, there’ll be no divided loyalties for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when he makes his return to Old Trafford.
“I looked at when we were scheduled to play Manchester United the day I got the job, but I’ve been so busy since then that I’ve not had time to think about it,” said Solskjaer, who scored 126 goals in 266 appearances during his 11 years at United from 1996-2007.