Juan Mata has expressed his delight after Manchester United clinched top spot in their Champions League group with a 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow.
The visitors, despite spending the majority of the opening stages camped in their own half, went ahead when Vitinho’s shot deflected off Alan Dzagoev, who was clearly in an offside position.
Jose Mourinho’s men responded emphatically, however, pouring forward at will and drawing level through Romelu Lukaku before Mata provided Marcus Rashford with a splendid assist two minutes later.
“We wanted to win,” he said. “We know we only needed a point but we always want to win especially at Old Trafford. In the first half we had chances but we scored twice and won the game. We are happy.”
And when asked about whether CSKA’S goal should have stood, Mata replied: “It is a new rule. We asked the referee because we saw that Daley was outside and we have to be careful with that because from now on it counts.
“It is important always to win for your confidence level, Sunday is a big game and we know how important it is. Hopefully it is a good game and we can get the three points.”
The Spaniard is right when he says there is a new rule, but it states that the player in question has to be able to realistically return to the pitch for no flag to be raised. And anybody watching knew that Daley Blind – hardly the most agile creature – was getting nowhere near the pitch by the time that goal went in.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Sometimes teams can implode in the face of perceived injustice, but Mourinho’s men displayed once again the main attacking feature that distinguishes them from last season: pure control.
There was no panic, no chagrin. The hosts moved forward with intent and regularity, spearheaded by the effervescent Paul Pogba, and in the end they got what they deserved.