Juan Mata has admitted that Manchester United need to improve in front of goal following their first leg 1-0 win over FC Rostov in the Europa League last 16.
Jose Mourinho’s men dominated proceedings from start to finish against the Russian side but only managed to place four of their 16 shots on target.
The Spaniard’s close range strike following Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s smart flick was enough to hand the home side their first win since the League Cup final, but supporters will be disappointed with what was another lacklustre display in front of goal.
And Mata, speaking to BT Sport after the game, was clearly disappointed with his side’s lack of clinical edge going forward.
“It was a matter of finishing our chances again,” he said.
“For the first half, for some moments we played great football, we created some nice chances but we couldn’t finish. We need to score. If not it is difficult to get through. It is important that we kept our goal, we have done our job and we are happy to win.”
United could have actually afforded to endure one of those agonisingly dominant and yet somehow fruitless displays at home against Rostov.
A 0-0 draw would have seen them through, and you could almost sense Old Trafford struggling to come to terms with the game’s entire dynamic: Rostov sitting back in spite of needing a goal; United pouring forward at perhaps 75% of their usual tempo without actually requiring a goal to go through; then a handful of attacks from the visiting side, prompting an amplification of discontented murmurs around the ground, before Mourinho’s men grabbed a goal that never looked like coming.
United got away with it this time, but the Portuguese will be fully aware of the fact that, against Premier League sides, and indeed in the latter stages of this competition, such ineptitude in front of goal will come back to haunt them.