Juan Mata has been reflecting on Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester City, declaring the squad needs to remain positive and move forward.
The Spaniard was forced to watch on from the bench as Man United, having recovered from a woeful start to the game, unfruitfully went for Man City’s jugular in search for an equaliser in the second half.
Writing in his weekly blog, Mata expressed his disappointment at the derby defeat but noted that the season still remains in its early stages.
“We have suffered the first defeat of the season and, after the initial disappointment, I think there is no time for mourning,” he wrote.
“On the contrary, it’s time to analyse the aspects of our game that we need to improve, and carry on with hope and motivation. It was an important game, but let’s be realistic, the season has just started and there is still a long way to go.
“Obviously, the result was painful for us, both for the fans and for the team. Losing a derby is always something tough to take, but I’m sure there are many good moments for us to enjoy in the next few months. To summarise the game before moving on, I would say that City were better than us in the first half, but after Zlatan’s goal and our improvement in the second half, the game was pretty much alive.
“When things became more box-to-box they took advantage of it and also had chances to get more goals, but finally the score didn’t change and the three points slipped away from us. Yes, three points, because in the end, and despite the game being a peculiar one, it wasn’t a final or anything like that, since we are in September. We have to remain positive and, as from now, think about next Thursday.”
Mourinho – and indeed the entire United squad – will be conscious of the fact that their approach to the derby was painfully misguided.
The 53-year-old’s decision to deploy two attack minded holding midfielders gave the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and David Silva seemingly limitless space to inflict damage, and the use of Jesse Lingard – clearly rusty after nearly a month on the sidelines – and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – evidently not fully over his injury – on the flanks gave United no attacking outboard and no running power, leaving Guardiola’s system largely untroubled.
Thankfully, the Portuguese recognised this, and made pragmatic changes that worked: Marcus Rashford was able to exploit Man City’s back four, whilst Ander Herrera‘s introduction gave the side more leverage in midfield, and in turn gave Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini a greater license to move forward and cause the visitors problems.
It is, as the Spaniard notes, a long season, and it’s better United have received this wake-up call early.