Juan Mata has expressed his frustration after Manchester United were unable to take advantage of Gabriel Agbonlahor’s sending off and secure victory - a seventh in succession - against Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.
Christian Benteke had given the home side the advantage with a wonderful first-half effort before Radamel Falcao, who was afforded a rare start, scored his second Manchester United goal shortly after the interval.
Agbonlahor was sent off 12 minutes after Falcao’s leveller after he clattered former teammate Ashley Young with a robust challenge, but Manchester United were unable to find a way through to further enhance their title credentials.
Two points lost
Louis van Gaal felt as though his side ‘gave away two points’ against a struggling Villa, while Mata believes Manchester United really ought to have been able to net a winner in the 25 minutes after Agbonlahor’s dismissal.
“Against Aston Villa we couldn’t get our seventh win in a row. It was a complicated game. They scored first, a great goal from Benteke, and didn’t let much space for us to come back,” Mata wrote in his blog.
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“We were able to tie the game thanks to Radamel’s header - I’m very happy for him."
"I think he deserved it because he works hard every day - and at the end of the game, despite Aston Villa were playing with ten men, we couldn’t score the second goal.
“Villa Park is a tough stadium for every team, although United must try to win always, in every place.
"We should have taken more advantage of those minutes after the red card, but they defended very well and even tried the counter-attack with some danger.”
Three points would have reinforced Van Gaal’s side’s position in the Premier League’s coveted top four positions, but could now drop into fifth place were they to lose to Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
A trip to White Hart Lane follows two days later before Manchester United complete the packed festive schedule away at Stoke City on January 1. These three matches will prove a great test for Van Gaal’s depleted squad, before he is able to address his concerns in the imminent transfer window.