Juan Mata says conceding late to his former club Chelsea made the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge feel like a defeat for Manchester United.
Mata was named Man of the Match as he returned to his former club. Eventually substituted with two minutes remaining he was given a standing ovation for both sets of fans, but shook his head as he sat on the bench, clearly annoyed with being hooked off.
United couldn’t take the lead for the second time without Mata in the final two minutes of added time after Diego Costa equalised in the 91st minute in his first game against United.
Jesse Lingard scored a stunning goal in the second half, taking the ball down, turning and striking wonderfully into the top right corner.
Mata was pleased with the performance but not with the final result after Costa’s late finish into an empty net.
“It does feel like a defeat,” Mata told Sky Sports.
“Coming to Stamford Bridge and playing like that is tough”, especially when you come away having dropped points.
The Reds are now six points away from the top four and achieving Champions League football next season is looking far more difficult by the week.
Both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur won ahead of United’s fixture at the Bridge, although both have tricky fixtures next week.
“We played very good football,” said Mata, “but Chelsea always try to push and they scored a late goal.”
United have been in far better form as of late after a very poor month of December.
They ended a run of 11 home matches without a goal in the first half against Stoke City in a 3-0 win on Tuesday night and looked a different team, a far more attacking team, again at the Bridge.
“I think we have showed now that we can play high-level football,” Mata said at his return to his old club. “We can play attractive football,” he insisted.
Mata didn’t complete the full game and was full of kind words for the Chelsea supporters after a standing ovation as he left the pitch. “It was special,” he said, “I’m always grateful [and] I really appreciate it.”