Juan Mata was yet again used in a more familiar central role as Manchester United beat Watford 1-0 on Wednesday.
The Spain international started in an attacking position along with Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay and Mancunian youngster Marcus Rashford. Mata eventually scored late on to give United three important points, moving Louis van Gaal’s side equal with fourth-placed Manchester City, who suffered a 3-0 loss against Liverpool at Anfield, in the Premier League table.
Watford, however, were not pushovers and they created an array of opportunities leaving the Old Trafford faithful biting their nails throughout. Nigeria international Odion Ighalo, who already has fourteen league goals to his name this season, forced three saves from David de Gea and missed one real opportunity through greed in the first half that was sent wide.
Mata proved to be a nuisance for the Watford defence in the second half by not only scoring the all important free-kick, but spraying countless balls out wide for Memphis to pick up on before frightening The Hornets’ back four.
By analysing the 27-year-old’s statistics during the game you will get a feel for his influence in the final third; a 92% passing percentage, 4 shots, as many crosses, 3 chances created. The former Chelsea midfielder even made efforts to track back and assist a United defence under pressure, which is an attribute he allegedly lacked if reports are to be believed from his time at Stamford Bridge.
It was down to Mata’s persistence that United began to show real attacking intent in the second half and win the game as rivals elsewhere — fighting for a top four finish — dropped short of three points.