LIVERPOOL (AFP) - Juan Mata has called on his Manchester United team-mates to conquer a red-hot October schedule that will have a major bearing on their hopes of winning the Premier League title.
United have not hit peak form consistently this season and yet sit just two points off the top of the Premier League ahead of Saturday's tricky trip to Everton.
They might have gone into the international break as leaders had they not collapsed to a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal in their last match.
That Arsenal loss was the start of a testing run of fixtures that continues at Goodison Park.
United face a long trip to Russia to face CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Leaders Manchester City visit Old Trafford next Sunday before United travel to in-form Crystal Palace.
Van Gaal has a number of injury concerns - most notably with his captain Wayne Rooney, who sat out England's wins over Estonia and Lithuania because of an ankle problem.
Bastian Schweinsteiger suffered a thigh injury in training while on international duty.
Defender Marcos Rojo withdrew from the Argentina squad for recent World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Paraguay with the hamstring trouble that has kept him out of United's last four matches.
Spanish midfielder Mata, though, feels United will have underlined their title credentials if they can cope with the tests that lie ahead.
"October is meant to be a very difficult month and we must be ready for it."
Everton fans could have been forgiven for fearing the worst when they saw their club's opening 10 Premier League fixtures - with eight of those games against last season's top eight.
Yet, Roberto Martinez's side are seventh and have been beaten just once so far, by leaders Manchester City, and have secured wins over Southampton and Chelsea.
Martinez sees no reason to fear a United side who have suffered defeat on their last three visits to Goodison Park.