Manchester United fell to their first defeat at the Hawthorns in the Premier League era on Sunday, and Spaniard Juan Mata’s red card in the first half proved to be a turning point in the match.
Sunday’s Premier League fixture between Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns was turned on its head halfway through the first half. Juan Mata picked up two yellow cards within three minutes of each other for fouls on former Red Devil Darren Fletcher, and it was an uphill task for his team from there. Solomon Rondon won the game for the Baggies with a second half strike, which turned out to be the only goal of the game.
After the match, United manager Louis van Gaal said that it was always going to be difficult to play with ten men and that the referee should have thought twice before sending off a player like Juan Mata.
“What can I say when you send off a player like Mata? I have asked him if it’s his first red card and he said: ‘Yes,’” said the Manchester United manager, according to the Guardian.
“When you do that you give the first and second yellow within five minutes. You can do it according to the rules but I think the referee has to know the person doing it. I don’t think Mata has ever made bad tackles.
“You know the first one is a stupid yellow card and then you have to be aware the referee can give a second yellow card. A referee has to decide within one second but when you know the player, Mata never hurts a player.”
Top four finish looking difficult
Manchester United’s run of four successive victories across three competitions had them aiming for a top four finish once again. However, the red card to Mata effectively ensured that they couldn’t take that tally to five. The crushing defeat to West Brom in a stadium where they hadn’t lost in 32 years has once again derailed their European ambitions.
The Red Devils are now two points behind fifth-placed West Ham United, who are in great form at the moment, and three points behind cross-town rivals Manchester City, who also have a game in hand. Manchester United will now need to gain maximum points in their final few matches to secure a place in the top four.