It was Manchester United who made the trip to The Hawthorns on Sunday, as they to secure all three points and keep their challenge for a top-four finish alive. Louis van Gaal’s side had been playing some good football in recent weeks and were hoping to push further up the table with a win. Despite all their plans, the thing did not start off too well for the Dutchman’s side who lost Juan Mata in the 26th minute, to a silly couple of bookings that he picked up in quick succession and was off for an early shower. Having to play with 10 men, the Red Devils tried their best to get something out of the game and created quite a few chances to score, though the half ended goalless.
After the restart, there were more chances to both sides though none were really taken. However, it was the hosts who finally got a breakthrough in the 66th minute, when Salomon Rondon scored with a coolly composed finish, after toiling hard in the game. United tried their best to equalize but had no answer and their ten man team suffered a huge blow to their ambitions of a top four finish.
Here is what Van Gaal had to say about his team’s performance after the match in his press conference:
Talking about the result he said, “We have played 60 minutes with 10 against 11 and this is the fifth match in 14 days, I believe. So it is very difficult to play against 11 players. I think that’s the reason that we lost this game because we didn’t give many chances away, not in the first half or in the second half when we played with 10 players – the only chance was more or less the goal. So what can I say? It’s a big pity that we have to play with 10 men against 11.”
About Mata’s red card, “The first yellow card was stupid because you know in advance that is a yellow card. But the second you know you already have one yellow card, so you have to take into account that you always risk a second – it’s difficult. You can damage the benefit of the team but I think the referee also has to know the person who makes the tackle. Juan Mata never tries to hurt an opponent.”
“It was not the smartest of fouls by Mata. The referee can whistle but I think he also has to know the character of Juan Mata. It’s his first red card [of his career]; it’s not relevant, I don’t think, but when you give two yellow cards within five minutes, it’s a little bit unbelievable when you know the character of Juan Mata.”
Talking about the performance after the sending off, he added, “We were very organised and they have one chance and one goal, and we have Lingard’s effort, for example. But we have lost and we have lost three points and this kind of matches you have to win when you want to be champions or within the first three of the title. We lost and that is not good.”
When asked whether the loss was a tiring one for his players, “That’s a question before Liverpool; they also played with 10 men, I heard, and we played 60 minutes and a lot of matches – five in two weeks – so it is not positive for us or Liverpool that we have to play with 10 men.”
About his side’s top four aspirations, he added, “It’s a big blow. You have always chances but I have said in advance: this kind of matches you have to win, especially when you need to close the gap because you have lost too many games before.”