Juan Mata has lamented failing to get the right contact with a bicycle kick that would have killed the game off against Liverpool last weekend.
Manchester United had raced into a 2-0 lead through goals from Marcus Rashford‘s and Alexis Sanchez’s beautiful looped ball into the area gave Mata a chance to finish off Jurgen Klopp’s men.
His body twisted as he lined up a drive into the bottom corner, evoking memories of his superb overhead kick at Anfield in 2015, but did not get the contact he needed.
And Mata, writing in his weekly blog, admitted that the one at Anfield three years ago was far easier.
“Apart from relishing the win I thought about that scissor-kick than I couldn’t turn into the third goal,” he said.
“To be honest, after watching it on TV I think it was easier than the one I did at Anfield a couple of seasons ago, but I couldn’t get in touch with the ball as well as I wanted. It seemed as it was going in but it went wide not far from the post.
“Those actions last a few seconds, it all happened very quickly. It was a purely instinctive decision to go for that overhead kick when I saw Alexis’s pass and the ball coming towards me at that height. It was a pity, but luckily we didn’t need to score that third goal in order to win :-). There will be other chances ;-).”
You can forgive Mata – a player oozing eloquence and shrewd execution – for snatching at this one chance, the ball sailing tantalisingly towards him in the box as Old Trafford, at its loudest in years, simultaneously roared and held its breath in anticipation.
Detached from all of that and blessed with a third person view of the pass, you could easily claim that Mata may well have had the time to chest the ball and slide it past Loris Karius, but it was not to be.
By that point, however, the Spaniard’s binding influence in attack and persistent subtle pressure had already made an impact on the heart of Liverpool’s defence.