Manchester United’s club-record signing of Juan Mata in January was expected to send the reigning champions on a run of form that would at least secure Champions League football. But despite an impressive debut against Cardiff City, not even the majestic Spaniard has been able to turn United’s luck around for longer than those first 90 minutes.
A defeat at Stoke City and the unlikeliest of draws at home to Fulham mean United are now nine points behind Liverpool in the race for a seat at Europe’s top table. And in truth, the way Brendan Rodgers’ side is playing, it is all-but-impossible for David Moyes’ men to catch them in what remains of the season.
So what did Mata make of the latest Old Trafford disappointment – one that still seems inexplicable given the amount of possession, crosses, everything really, that United enjoyed?
Writing in his weekly blog, the former Chelsea player had this to say about Sunday’s match:
“Honestly, I think football is being cruel with us. We did everything to get the three points, but in the end this is about goals and Fulham scored in the last minute.
“It seems impossible if you look at the stats, but we couldn’t win and it would have been a very important victory.”
It certainly would; perhaps the most important of United’s season. You could see what it meant when Michael Carrick’s deflected shot flew past Martin Stekelenburg. Wayne Rooney fell to his knees and roared at the Stretford End; Moyes turned to the fans behind the dug-out and did the same.
This was more than three points…or at least it would have been.
Perhaps Mata is right and football really is being cruel to him and his new teammates. But that is the sport – cruel to one side and wonderful to the other.
United need to start becoming the latter side again – a side who would have scored the third long before Darren Bent had the chance to equalise.
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