Manchester United match-winner Juan Mata believes the “ugly” victory over Watford at Old Trafford is a pivotal one in his side’s bid to reach the Champions League.
Louis van Gaal’s men took advantage of Manchester City’s defeat at Liverpool with a 1-0 home win on Wednesday, which arrived courtesy of the stand-in captain’s free-kick seven minutes from time.
The results mean United have moved level on points with fourth-placed City, who have one game in hand.
Mata was ecstatic with the result and also spoke of his pride at leading the team in the absence of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Chris Smalling.
“It was very, very important to win,” the Spain international told MUTV. “It’s not the prettiest game we have played this season, but we needed the points, especially because our rivals didn’t win their games.
“It was massive, this victory, for us and that’s why we celebrated like we did. You can call it however you want, maybe it’s an ugly win, but it’s a win in our race and we are still going.
“We will never give up. We are closer now to fourth, third and second and will try to win again on Sunday [at West Brom].
“It was very good [to be captain]. I’m very proud and very honoured to wear it [the armband]. It was the perfect day for me – winning, scoring, three massive points and being captain. I’m too happy.
“The Premier League is not easy and it’s never finished until the last game. We have to fight until the end. We won a massive game against Arsenal last weekend and won here again.
“We are on a good run while our rivals are having problems. We have to take advantage of that and I think we did really well in winning.”
Asked to describe his set-piece winner, Mata added: “Because of the side [of the pitch], I had more angle than [Memphis Depay] that time and I tried to put it to the goalkeeper’s side.
“I think he [Heurelho Gomes] couldn’t see the ball and, luckily, it went in.”
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