Juan Mata has admitted that Manchester United were lucky to escape Southampton with three points following a narrow 1-0 win at Saint Mary’s in the Premier League on Saturday.
The visitors were in a buoyant mood following comprehensive wins against Everton and Burton Albion over the week and made an effervescent start against Mauricio Pellegrino’s side, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan enjoying plenty of touches at No.10. Ashley Young rounded off a sublime 15-pass move with a pin-point cross to Romelu Lukaku, who duly barged Wesley Hoedt to one side and netted his eighth goal of the season after 20 minutes.
United continued to dominate the first half and stopped Southampton from troubling David de Gea, but the complexion changed in the second period as the hosts took control, with the superb Mario Lemina pulling the strings in the middle. They went close with a series of crisp attacking moves, forcing a litany of corners, but didn’t really ever trouble David de Gea as Phil Jones dominated at the back. Mourinho threw on Ander Herrera and Chris Smalling to add more solidity and the visitors held out for an important three points to ensure they came away from the game with their best start to a season since the 2011/12 season.
And Mata, reflecting on the dressing room atmosphere in his weekly blog, noted that winning games of this nature was imperative for any side challenging for the Premier League title.
“The win was really tough to get, they didn’t let us play our game and they had chances to tie the score until the end,” he said. “The truth is they didn’t deserve to lose but football is like that sometimes.”
“We know a couple of things about it, since we were in the same situation several times last season.
“It was not our best game, that’s for sure, but luckily we managed to get the three points. This kind of games can make the difference between reaching the end of the season with a chance to fight for the title or not. We did a good work defensively and that was the key to win.”