Man of the Match Mata is targeting the trophy

Wednesday 30 September 2020 23:44

Juan Mata's Carabao Cup love affair continued on Wednesday night when he scored his 50th goal for Manchester United, claimed an assist and collected the Man of the Match award as the Reds reached the quarter-finals.

The Spaniard, who netted significantly against Manchester City and semi-final opponents Hull City when United last won the competition in 2017, is determined to go on and get his hands on the silverware again this season after starring in the third round at Luton Town last week and now at the expense of Brighton & Hove Albion.

Our hosts at the Amex Stadium were looking comfortable, and capable of avenging their home Premier League defeat to the Reds at the weekend, when Mata seemed to take the proceedings by the scruff of the neck by making a surging run into their territory and drawing a foul from his pursuer, the towering Seagulls centre-back Dan Burn.
Juan Mata earned a free-kick with this run - and then used it to create United's first goal.
“I tried to put my body in front of him and I think it was a foul,” said Juan, in a post-match interview with Sky Sports.

“Then after [with the free-kick], I just tried to put the ball into the area where normally we try to bring two or three players who can head it.

“It was tight, I think it was just onside, so it was a great header by Scotty. It was important to score in the first half because we know how difficult if we don't score the chances that we create.”
After creating the first goal of the game for McTominay, Mata registered the 50th goal of his Reds career when he linked up with a new team-mate he already admires hugely. Donny van de Beek's ability and awareness in the box enabled our no.8 to beat Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele with an accomplished finish into the bottom right-hand corner, even with his less-favoured right foot.

“It was a very clever assist,” praised Juan. “Donny is a very clever player. I love playing with him because he finds pockets and spaces, he understands football in a way that I like which is playing one-twos, passing and moving, and the goal was like that.

“He's always in the right position, he flicked the ball to me and I could finish with my right.”
Mata was crowned Man of the Match on Sky Sports and also by United fans following the game in our Official App - he picked up 60 per cent of the votes cast there, making him the winner by a landslide margin as the runner-up, van de Beek, gleaned 15 per cent. 

Individual accolades are not the Spaniard's priority, however. When asked what the Carabao Cup means to his club, Juan replied: “It means a trophy. That is what's in our minds, to try to lift trophies for our fans.

“We did it in 2017 so we want to do it again. We try to win every game in every competition. Of course, this one is different this year because we're playing at an early stage but hopefully we can go through the quarter-finals and semi-finals, and play at Wembley which is always nice.”
Mata poses proudly with his Man of the Match trophy.
With the competition put to bed now until December, when the Reds will face opponents decided by Thursday night's fifth-round draw, Mata's attention will now turn to other fronts and he will no doubt be itching for some Premier League action against his former Chelsea and United manager Jose Mourinho on Sunday. If Juan is called upon for the Spurs game, he'll be ready.

“I feel good, as always, physically and mentally,” declared the 32-year-old. “I'm hungry, I have still passion for the game and I feel I have still a lot of football in my legs and in my mind. I am enjoying football as much as ever.”

Mata's performance and attitude earned praise from Sky pundit and his former team-mate Darren Fletcher, who said: “It was refreshing to hear Juan say he was mentally ready. Tiredness can be a mental thing as well, but Juan has set himself up mentally and he's physically looking in great shape.

“He's been Man of the Match in two League Cup games now so I wouldn't be surprised to see Juan playing in the Premier League quite soon.”

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