Match Rewind: What's your favourite Mata moment?
It’s Monday, and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for a new 'Match Rewind'!
Over the last six weeks, we’ve been asking you to choose which classic Manchester United matches you want to relive in full.
With three games streamed each week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – there’s been plenty of opportunity to look back on some cherished Red memories.
Our latest vote is centred around our Spanish playmaker Juan Mata, who celebrates his 32nd birthday tomorrow (Tuesday). To mark the occasion, we’re asking you to choose between four games that provided some of Mata’s finest moments in a United shirt...
LIVERPOOL 1 UNITED 2 (PREMIER LEAGUE, 2014/15)
Visits to Anfield are always important, even when there’s nothing to play for. In March 2015, however, both sides were battling it out for the final Champions League spot, with United just two clear of the Merseysiders in fourth. Liverpool had embarked on a 13-match unbeaten run in the league since losing 3-0 to United in December, and were slight favourites going into the game. We were in the midst of a purple patch ourselves, though, and Mata’s marvellous individual performance at the heart of a composed and controlled team showing ensured the Reds were in Mersey paradise by the time the full-time whistle blew.
UNITED 2 CRYSTAL PALACE 1 (FA CUP, 2015/16)
The Reds – clad in white at Wembley, in our first FA Cup final since 2007 – were staring down the barrel of defeat in English football’s showpiece event, as Jason Puncheon’s late goal looked set to give Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace their first success in the world’s oldest cup competition. In such moments, big players are required, and two in particular – Rooney and Mata – stepped up.
Rooney’s slaloming run attracted one, two, three, four Palace players, allowing Marouane Fellaini and Mata to find space in the box. When the scooped cross eventually came, Fellaini controlled the ball on his chest, perhaps a touch too heavily. No worries – Mata was on hand just behind the Belgian at the far post to volley home and send the game into extra-time. The Spaniard’s replacement Jesse Lingard would come up with an even better effort to win the final, but Mata’s contribution was key as the Reds ended our 12-year FA Cup drought.
UNITED 1 MAN CITY 0 (LEAGUE CUP, 2016/17)
All the talk leading up to this League Cup fourth-round tie was focused around the managers, with Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho reuniting their rivalry just six weeks after City had beaten United 2-1 in the Premier League at Old Trafford. The Blues opted to rotate their side, with key names such as Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling starting on the bench. Mourinho, however, identified a very realistic chance of silverware and opted for his strongest possible team, with Mata featuring alongside Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a formidable-looking front four.
After a forgettable first half, the Reds came alive after the break. Paul Pogba hit a post before Mata had his moment, latching on to Ibrahimovic’s cut back to fire the Reds into the lead. While City appealed for a foul in the build-up, the Spaniard wheeled away to celebrate in front of the Stretford End. That goal would prove key – it’s still the last time City have lost in the competition – as the Reds would go on to overcome West Ham, Hull and Southampton on our way to a fifth League Cup success.
JUVENTUS 1 UNITED 2 (CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, 2018/19)
United travelled to Turin – the scene of a famous European victory some two decades before – with our Champions League hopes on the line. Four points from three games was a mediocre return in Group H for a Reds side which had also been struggling domestically. When ex-United star Cristiano Ronaldo lashed home superbly midway through the second half to put the Italians ahead, Mourinho’s side were staring at the prospect of being leapfrogged into second place by Valencia.
Mata was introduced for Herrera on 79 minutes, with United still having failed to trouble Wojciech Szczesny in the Old Lady’s goal. That soon changed, when the Spaniard whipped in a devilish free-kick to, somehow, level the scores with just four minutes to play. The Reds had barely had time to reflect on a hard-earned point away from home when we were celebrating a second and, with it, a mini-repeat of 1999. With Fellaini causing chaos in the Juventus area, Ashley Young’s free-kick was parried onto Leonardo Bonucci’s head by Szczesny, with the ball ending up nestled in the back of the home side’s net. Inspired by Mata’s introduction, it was an unlikely victory for United and Juve’s first group-stage defeat at home in nine years.