Juan Mata has heralded Manchester United's 3-0 win over Tottenham at Old Trafford yesterday as their best win of the season.
The Spaniard was recalled for the first time since the Red Devils' 2-0 win over QPR in January, and made an instant impact as Louis van Gaal's side struck a decisive blow in the race for a top four finish.
Marouane Fellaini got the party started with a low strike after just nine minutes, before Michael Carrick doubled the lead 10 minutes later. The game was effectively over when Wayne Rooney slotted home after a Nabil Bentaleb mistake with just over half an hour gone.
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Spurs improved slightly in the second half but couldn't get a foothold in the game, and Manchester United cruised to their 16th win of the season. They remain in fourth place, five points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool who take on Swansea this evening.
Mata wrote in his personal blog this morning: "It was a very important victory in order to finish in the top four, since Tottenham is also in the same race. It was arguably our best first half of the season.
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"In those 45 minutes we got three goals and we could have scored some more. The team played with a fast, intense and vertical style, also pressing on Spurs’ half of the pitch. I was very happy for the fans after the disappointment in the FA Cup against Arsenal last Monday.
"The best way to recover was by playing a good game and winning for the fans, and that’s what we gave to them -to you- against Tottenham, a very good team that we managed to neutralize."
Pressure had been mounting on Van Gaal before the game after a run of poor performances culminating in their elimination from the FA Cup against Arsenal last week. However the win not only keeps them in contention for a top four place, but they're now just two points adrift of rivals Manchester City following their 1-0 defeat against lowly Burnley.
Van Gaal believes his side can begin to look up the table and move into the automatic Champions League qualification positions rather than looking down, and had a word of warning for Manuel Pellegrini's side.
"Whether they want that or don't want that, that is the position," he said. "It is a rat race. They are in it."
Manchester United undoubtedly enjoyed their finest win of the season against Tottenham, but their opponents certainly made it easy for them. Under Mauricio Pochettino Spurs have been heralded for their high octane style but that was nowhere to be seen yesterday. They've won more points (16) from losing positions than any other team but their fighting spirit was totally absent at Old Trafford.
Next up, Manchester United take on Liverpool. That will certainly be a truer test of their real progress than yesterday.
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