Juan Mata has expressed his delight at Manchester United’s stoppage time win over Arsenal on Sunday.
Both sides played out something of a languid contest, with focus firmly on respective cup competitions giving the whole affair – Arsene Wenger’s last match at Old Trafford as Arsenal manager – an exhibition match type of feel.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan cancelled out Paul Pogba‘s early goal in the second half before Marouane Fellaini, introduced along with the bright Anthony Martial, headed home a winner with 91 minutes gone to ensure Man United mathematically qualified for the Champions League next season.
And Mata, writing in his weekly blog, was pleased to see Man United claim all three points, while also paying tribute to Wenger and Mkhitaryan.
“April is coming to an end, and so is this season,” he wrote. “It’s still soon to make an analysis of the year, but after games like this Sunday’s at Old Trafford you can’t help thinking that there are only four more games to play and that the end of the season is very close. We want to finish in the best possible way.”
“The win against Arsenal in stoppage time takes us a little bit closer to secure the second place, which is our goal since we knew that we couldn’t mathematically win the Premiership.
“These three points were very good for us, in a game that was the last one of Arsène Wenger as the Arsenal manager at Old Trafford. In 22 seasons he’s been through everything in this stadium and I think that at the end the football world is showing to him the affection that he deserves.
“A lot of things have changed with him in the Premier League, he was an innovator and it’s fair to admit that he has contributed so many things to English football, and to thank him for that.
“Also, in this game I could see Mkhitaryan again, to whom I wish the best. He scored a good goal that he didn’t celebrate, and Old Trafford also showed its affection to him :-).”
It is becoming something of a theme for United this season that the occasion – the context of the game – has to be a certain way before they start to perform.
Against Sevilla they only started playing when they absolutely had to. The same can be said of their trip to the Ethiad a few weeks ago. Wins over Crystal Palace, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and most recently Arsenal were all only initiated after United had been handed a bloody nose.
Put simply, this team – while unquestionably more resilient and efficient than last year – continues to lack initiative, a sense of natural thrust. Once again, against Arsenal’s reserves, we had to wait until a frenzied final ten minutes to see this team let the shackles off.
Every supporter will be desperate to see Mourinho address this ahead of his third season at Old Trafford.