Juan Mata has admitted that the Manchester United dressing room was hurting following the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho’s men begun the game expansively, forcing Chelsea into their half, but their lack of midfield options told as the host started to generate momentum going forward, with N’Golo Kante nullifying the influence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Alvaro Morata headed the champions into the lead in the second half and Man United, despite a late onslaught that saw Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini go close, never really looked like pegging a goal back.
Writing in his weekly blog, Mata, who was left out of the match-day squad, expressed his disappointment at falling further behind Manchester City but called on supporters to have some perspective.
“It’s not easy to write after a defeat,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a risk that you get carried away by pessimism. But my experience tells me that you must allow some time to analyse things with more perspective.”
“It hurts to lose, that’s for sure. Both you and us. But now there’s an international break coming and it’s a good time to recap and to see the things that we’re doing well and the things that we can improve.
“Indeed, the return to Stamford Bridge didn’t work out as we expected. It was a tough and intense game where Chelsea were able to take their chances to get the three points.
“In sports you have to accept the defeats, but with the only goal of learning from them and trying to improve in the next game. That’s what we’re going to do. There’s still a lot to play for, so let’s carry on.”
Those who wanted United to play a more expansive, ambitious game at Stamford Bridge in comparison to what was seen at Anfield certainly got their wish.
Mourinho’s side went for it from minute one, using Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia to good effect out wide, but their dearth of midfield options eventually showed, with Chelsea’s trio of Kante, Timeoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas offering greater fluidity and invention than Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic.
By the second half the balance of power at the core of proceedings was clear, and United’s creative players, somewhat worryingly, didn’t offer anything tangible to reverse the momentum.