Sunday 15 December 2019

Juan Mata dedicates win over Huddersfield to Munich victims and families

Tuesday is the 60th anniversary of the air disaster.

Juan Mata helped Manchester United to victory against Huddersfield
Juan Mata helped Manchester United to victory against Huddersfield

By Simon Peach, Press Association Chief Football Writer

Juan Mata dedicated Manchester United’s victory against Huddersfield to the victims of the Munich disaster and their families.

Tuesday is the 60th anniversary of the air disaster that killed 23 people as United made their way back from a European Cup tie at Red Star Belgrade.

Old Trafford fell silent on Saturday as the victims were remembered ahead of a match against Huddersfield that Jose Mourinho’s men would win 2-0.

“Obviously it was a special game, a very sad memory,” United midfielder Mata said.

“It was a thing that changed the history of the club and the club showed the passion and the energy that we all have in Manchester United.

“So, we pay respect to the victims and their families, and they will always be in our memories.

“It was a game to win for them and we did it.”

Manchester United were made to work for three points against Huddersfield

United had to dig deep, stay patient and keep at a high tempo to eventually break down stubborn Huddersfield.

Mata’s fine cross was met by an equally impressive Romelu Lukaku finish as Mourinho’s Reds broke the deadlock in the 55th minute, with Alexis Sanchez then slotting home his first goal for the club after his initial spot-kick was saved.

“It was the kind of game that we needed to have, trying to score from the beginning,” Mata said.

“We knew they were going to come here and are a very well-organised side. It took some time to score the first goal and to open the game.

“But I think we did what we had to which was press up, play in the other half, recover the ball as soon as possible and play with intensity.

“I think today we did a good job.”

Mata was particularly pleased for new boy Sanchez as he capped a man-of-the-match performance on his home debut with a goal.

“It is important (to get your first goal), you know? When you’re an attacking player and you arrive to a new club you feel like the sooner you score the better,” Mata told MUTV.

“We are so happy for him, he scored a goal and he created a lot of things, so we’re happy to have him with us.”

Victory for second-place United saw them move within 13 points of table-topping Manchester City, whereas an eighth straight winless Premier League match saw Huddersfield slip into the drop-zone.

David Wagner’s men have a key run of fixtures coming up after Tuesday’s FA Cup fourth round replay at Birmingham and captain Tommy Smith remains upbeat.

“I felt we proved we have character,” he said. “Results have not been great lately. There is no hiding from that, but we have character in this group.

“We will keep fighting until the very end of the season and get as many points as we can. Results bring confidence and we haven’t been getting those results.

Town captain Tommy Smith puts pressure on Alexis Sanchez

“But remaining confident has been a key message that we have been trying to get across – myself, the manager and the staff.

“This is a tough league with no easy games. This is the club’s first season at this level for a long time and we are discovering how tough it can be.

“But we will keep fighting, keep showing character and keep putting in as much effort as possible.”

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