Juan Mata

Manchester United
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Ighalo leads Man Utd past Derby County

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Manchester United dealt with old pal Wayne Rooney and Derby County to reach the FA Cup quarterfinals.

Odion Ighalo scored in each half after Luke Shaw opened the scoring to lead the Red Devils past the Rams 3-0 at Pride Park on Thursday.

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Rooney put on a decent display in a losing effort. The Derby County captain completed 11 of 15 long balls while connecting on 88 percent of his passes. He had five key passes, an interception, a blocked shot, two tackles, and a clearance (via Sofascore).

Sergio Romero denied Rooney a wonderful stoppage-time free kick goal when he flew right to slap a ball over the bar.

Shaw’s goal was a bounding effort from the left side of the box in the 33rd minute.

It’s his first since opening day of the 2018/19 Premier League season, and just his second in 151 senior appearances between Southampton and Manchester United.

Ighalo has scored in both of his starts for United this season since arriving from the Chinese Super League, and his first goal was especially deft (see below). The 30-year-old maneuvered between two defenders and finished well. He deposited his own rebound after a Juan Mata pass in the 70 minute to make it 3-0.

United will visit Norwich City in the quarterfinals, which is comprised entirely of Premier League combatants.

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Solskjaer, Mata react to Man Utd draw: ‘We can play better’

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Manchester United got an away goal in a 1-1 first leg draw with Europa League foes Club Brugge in Belgium on Thursday.

The goals were pretty individual, a big chip of Sergio Romero followed by Anthony Martial’s powerful dribble to equalize for the Red Devils.

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United outshot the hosts 16-10, but fell short in big chances created by a 3-1 margin.

Here’s Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, via the BBC:

“It was a game with difficult conditions out there. It was almost like an astroturf. The ball was very quick and lively,” Solskjaer said. “We got the away goal. It was a very good individual goal, worked hard to win the ball and finish so we are happy with that but we know we can play better.”

The second leg is Feb. 27 at Old Trafford, four days after a Premier League encounter with Watford in the same building.

United midfielder Juan Mata had a busy day, winning the majority of his tackles and creating one key pass. He expected better from his team but sees the game for what it is.

Here is Mata, from The Manchester Evening News:

“They scored a goal we shouldn’t concede. We scored a goal from their mistake. we wanted to win, obviously, 1-1 is not a very bad result, but we always want to win,” Mata said. “We just couldn’t find spaces, they defended very well with five plus four. We tried to play a few times through the middle, which we didn’t succeed to do that. Then we scored that goal and from then we played a bit better.”

Solskjaer kept Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Daniel James, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the bench to start the match. Fernandes and Fred came on late.

Solskjaer talks Rashford injury, ‘finally’ beating Wolves

Manchester United's Solskjaer talks Rashford injury
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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was going to give Marcus Rashford his first match day off since Dec. 12.

He didn’t, and he regrets it.

Solskjaer plucked his star striker off the bench in the 64th minute and removed him 16 minutes later after a back injury hobbled the 22-year-old.

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“Yes, it backfired,” Solskjaer said, via the BBC. “You got to take them once in a while. He’ll be tested in the next few days – we have to see for Sunday. He couldn’t run. He struggled a little bit with his back and got another knock. It didn’t help.”

Rashford played just 20 minutes in the first meeting between the two on Jan. 4, but started eight other matches in the last 34 days. He went 90 minutes in five of those outings.

The injury, possibly minor, threatens to overshadow a terrific Juan Mata goal as Manchester United earned a date with either Watford and Tranmere Rovers in the fourth round.

The 1-0 win is United’s first over Wolves in six tries since the latter was promoted in 2018 (three draws, two losses).

“I think you can see it was two teams towards the end that were tired. End to end and an open game – sometimes that doesn’t suit us,” Solskjaer said. “We’re delighted to beat Wolves finally. Juan Mata is different class. He’s got the skill, composure and even pace.”

Mata’s looked great in consecutive matches, and he’s gonna need to do it more often if Rashford is unable to go for any prolonged period.

FA Cup: Mata leads Man Utd win as Rashford hurt; Cardiff wins 7-goal thriller

Manchester United advances in FA Cup
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The FA Cup’s fourth round fixture list is complete, pending one water-logged reschedule, after Manchester United and Cardiff City picked up wins on Wednesday.

United’s win came at a cost, as Marcus Rashford limped off with a back injury.

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Watford and Tranmere Rovers face a replay next week after seeing their Tuesday match moved due to an unplayable pitch.

Spurs outlasted Middlesbrough on Tuesday to headline a host of replays.

As for Wednesday…

Manchester United v. Wolves

The visitors thought that they’d gone ahead early, but an inadvertent handball was caught by VAR to keep the score 0-0.

Red-hot Juan Mata made the difference with a delightful run to meet Anthony Martial‘s through ball, dinking the ball over John Ruddy in the 67th minute.

What a goal from one of the serially underappreciated players of his generation.

Carlisle United 3-4 Cardiff City

League Two relegation candidates Carlisle showed well against their Championship visitors, taking a lead through Nathan Thomas.

Cardiff scored the next three goals of the match, but Harry McKirdy twice pulled the hosts back within a goal at 3-2 and 4-3.

It was just too big an ask of the Cumbrians, though, as Aden Flint’s double joined goals from Josh Murphy and Danny Ward to make it 4-2 before the hour mark.

FA Cup fourth round schedule

Jan. 24
Northampton Town v. Derby County
QPR v. Sheffield Wednesday

Jan. 25
Brentford v. Leicester City
Southampton v. Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall v. Sheffield United
Reading v. Cardiff City
West Ham v. West Brom
Burnley v. Norwich City
Coventry City v. Birmingham City
Newcastle United v. Oxford United
Portsmouth v. Barnsley
Hull City v. Chelsea

Jan. 26
Man City v. Fulham
Watford or Tranmere Rovers v. Manchester United
Shrewsbury Town v. Liverpool

Jan. 27
Bournemouth v. Arsenal

Manchester United’s Mata ‘still hungry’ after making case for more time

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Juan Mata would like the world to know he still wants to compete, and on Saturday he showed that class is permanent.

The Manchester United midfielder picked two assists in his first league start since Dec. 1, the first a sensational set-up of Marcus Rashford.

“It is frustrating when I don’t play,” Mata said after the 4-0 defeat of Norwich City. “I am still hungry to help my team with goals and assists. Like every player, when I don’t play I am not happy. But I have to always be available for the team.”

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Mata, 31, has been an unused sub for nine PL matches this season, and played less than 10 minutes in five others. His two assists, however, were his first notches on the score sheet in Premier League play.

The Spaniard’s been around the block, and says Saturday’s show highlights the Top Four capabilities of United. From The Manchester Evening News:

“It is a good example of how good we can play. We need to play like this on a consistent basis if we want to get a Champions League spot.”

As for Mata’s manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was please with this performance. United rebounded from a poor performance in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal versus rivals Man City.

“Very happy,” he said. “We started on the front foot. When you can walk off, and I am sure the opposition are talking about Man Utd as a very hard working team, that is what I want from my team.”