Juan Mata noted in his Monday blog that the Old Trafford crowd played a key role in Manchester United’s 3-2 comeback win over Newcastle United on Saturday.
The Spaniard was brought into the game just 15 minutes in after a tumultuous start during which Newcastle scored twice, prompting Jose Mourinho to remove Eric Bailly and play an extra midfielder.
And it was Mata – incisive, probing, bubbling with forward momentum – who kickstarted a remarkable 20 minute turnaround with a perfect free-kick before Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez scored to hand Man United a vital three points.
Writing in his weekly blog, Mata said that the noise of the Old Trafford crowd willed the team forward.
“As you’re all aware, the situation was dire,” he wrote.
“We were 2-0 down early on and Newcastle were creating chances. A come back seemed a long way off. Not because scoring two or three goals was impossible, as we showed, but due to how we were feeling in that first half… However, in the second half we gave all that we had. From pushing on, courage and our football, we turned the scoreline around.”
“Thanks to all of this and the incredible support of our fans, of course, we were pushed towards the three points. The energy and lift that the fans gave us was key to taking the win.
“In the dying minutes, above all, Old Trafford transformed into the kind of stadium that every other one in the world wants to be, a stadium where goals can be scored from the stands too. It was really amazing to be able to feel that from the pitch itself.
“In those moments, you realise just how special our fans are. You all deserved the result from that game.”
It was as soon as Mata’s free-kick hit the net, and Old Trafford exploded with a much-needed roar of life, that the game was well and truly on.
Prior to that, United had been sleepwalking through this game, lost in a nightmare of their own making, and Old Trafford was feeling the same too.
Suddenly, though, the crowd was up and players were streaming forward. They were feeding off each other: the crowd going up in decibels as United, finally, poured forward in attack; the United team, usually so stymied, liberated and spurred on by the sheer noise emanating from the stands.
Above all, it was entertaining – and that is what has been missing more than anything this season.