Juan Mata’s pinpoint free-kick sparked Manchester United’s miraculous recovery against Newcastle United on the weekend and the Spaniard has admitted that for a long time, the Red Devils squad didn’t believe a comeback was on the cards.
United went into the home clash under pressure after having failed to win their last four games in all competitions, but things unravelled quickly as the Magpies raced into a 2-0 lead with just ten minutes on the clock.
“I guess that you’ll be more up for reading this post than you were a week ago… It’s only normal, it’s the same for me writing it. Saturday’s win was special, without doubt, not only for how important it was but also for how it came about,” Mata penned on his personal blog.
However, Jose Mourinho rung in the changes, introducing Mata in the first-half itself and bringing on Marouane Fellaini at half time.
“As you’re all aware, the situation was dire. We were 2-0 down early on and Newcastle were creating chances.”
Mata would score a 70th minute free-kick to ignite the comeback, with Anthony Martial levelling proceedings six minutes later .
“A comeback seemed a long way off. Not because scoring two or three goals was impossible, as we showed, but due to how we were feeling in that first half…However, in the second half we gave all that we had. From pushing on, courage and our football, we turned the scoreline around.”
And Mourinho’s third and final change on the night–Alexis Sanchez–would complete the remarkable turnaround with a glancing header in the final minute of regulation time.
“Thanks to all of this and the incredible support of our fans, of course, we were pushed towards the three points. The energy and lift that the fans gave us was key to taking the win.”
“In the dying minutes, above all, Old Trafford transformed into the kind of stadium that every other one in the world wants to be, a stadium where goals can be scored from the stands too. It was really amazing to be able to feel that from the pitch itself.:
“In those moments, you realise just how special our fans are. You all deserved the result from that game.”
On a personal level, obviously it was important to score the first goal, the one that got us back into the game and made us believe in the chance of a comeback.”
Mata is now in a league of his own when it comes to scoring free-kicks in the Premier League.
For according to a stat by Opta, the Spaniard has scored the most direct set-pieces since his Premier League debut in 2011.
“It was a free kick, something which isn’t new to me (they have told me that since I’ve arrived in the Premier League, nobody has scored more goals from direct free kicks) and therefore sometimes I ask to take them.”
United move to 8th in the league table with their win over the Magpies and trail leaders Manchester City by seven points heading into the first international break of the season.
“I believe that there are three key factors when it is time to take a free kick: practice (something that I really enjoy during training), concentration (in order to focus on striking the ball well) and confidence (to believe that it is going to end in a goal). After that, obviously it doesn’t always go in… but luckily on Saturday it did,” the Spanish midfielder added as he signed off.