Manchester United beat Newcastle 4-1, thanks to goals from Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford on Saturday, but it was Juan Mata who made the difference for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Solskjaer, under pressure after United’s joint-worst defeat of the Premier League era, made five changes from the side thrashed by Spurs and most of the focus ahead of kick-off fell on the players left out. Paul Pogba was the most high-profile to lose his spot. There was no place in the side for Donny van de Beek or Alex Telles either.
But it was one of the players who came into the side who made the biggest impact on the game. Mata had not played a single minute of Manchester United’s first three Premier League fixtures this season. In fact, he had not made a single start in the competition since February.
On this evidence, however, the 32-year-old still has plenty to offer, according to a Sky Sport report.
Mata was not among the scorers at St James’ Park – those were Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford – but United’s best attacking performance in months owed more to him than anyone else. The Spaniard was outstanding from start to finish.
Mata lined up on the right-hand side of United’s attack, the position occupied by Mason Greenwood against Spurs, but his interpretation of the role was very different. What he lacks in pace and power, he makes up for in vision and imagination.
Mata popped up everywhere, drifting into pockets of space wherever he saw them, creating space for Wan-Bissaka to bomb forward on the overlap, and linking up with Fernandes at every opportunity.
By the end, the pair had exchanged passes 31 times. Their combination play resulted in a goal after 19 minutes, only for VAR to rule it out for offside, and there were plenty more examples. Shortly after half-time, there was another mesmerising one-two to manufacture an opening for Fred.
Mata provided Fernandes with the service he has lacked for much of this season and the Portuguese was not the only one to benefit for his presence. Over the course of the 90 minutes, there were also superb passes for Wan-Bissaka and Rashford, one of which released the latter in the build-up to Fernandes’ goal.
Mata knitted everything together, his touch-map underlining his influence all over the pitch, and it was exactly what United needed.
Their biggest issue under Solskjaer has been an inability to break down opponents who sit deep and prevent them from playing on the break. It was for precisely that reason that the trip to St James’ Park looked like an awkward one. But with Mata orchestrating proceedings, it was not a problem.
Instead, Solskjaer’s side were slick in possession and created scoring chances with ease. Indeed, it was only thanks to Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow’s sharp reflexes that the game was not dead and buried long before the late flurry of goals that sealed the victory.
The statistics underlined their effectiveness. United’s total of 28 shots, including 14 on target, was the highest by any Premier League side in a single game so far this season. It was also more than United managed in any game in the whole of the last campaign.
Mata only registered one assist, the corner from which Maguire headed home United’s equaliser, but his influence was far greater than that and Solskjaer acknowledged as much in his post-match press conference, praising him for grasping his opportunity after his spell out of the side.
“He played fantastic,” said Solskjaer. “He’s such a professional and everyone in the team knows his quality. He’s been so patient waiting for his chance.
“I get a lot of questions, ‘Why doesn’t he play? Why doesn’t he play?’ But it’s because we have many good players, and it’s about taking your chances when you do. Juan has definitely done so.”
Mata walked off the pitch with a grin on his face when he made way for Nemanja Matic in the final few minutes of the game and Solskjaer looked similarly elated after the final whistle.
The manager’s credentials had been questioned during United’s poor start to the season and the scrutiny won’t end with this victory – especially with games against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, RB Leipzig and Arsenal to come in the weeks ahead.
But the pressure on his shoulders ahead of that testing run of fixtures is at least a little lighter than it was before kick-off at St James’ Park, and that’s largely thanks to his decision to turn to Mata.
Super Eagles striker Paul Onuachu joins EPL club Southampton
Super Eagles striker, Paul Onuachu, has joined an English Premier League club Southampton on a permanent deal.
Onuachu who left Genk signed a three-and-a-half year contract with the Premier League side.
The South Coast club beat Bundesliga side, Eintracht Frankfurt to the forward.
Onuachu is coming to the St Mary’s Stadium with huge reputation having scored 17 goals in 22 appearances for Genk this season.
In total, he departs with 85 goals in 134 games for the club, which he joined in 2019 from Danish side FC Midtjylland.
Southampton manager Nathan Jones said, “Paul is a significant signing for us and completes what has been an extremely positive month in terms of recruitment.
“He’s a handful to play against, has got a tremendous record throughout his career and he’s also someone who brings great experience with him, so he’ll be a really positive addition to the squad.”
Everton confirm former Burnley boss Dyche as new manager
Everton have confirmed the appointment of former Burnley boss Sean Dyche as their new manager on a two-and-a-half-year contract.
The report came on Monday that Dyche had been chosen by the Everton board as Frank Lampard’s successor, after also holding talks with former Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa.
Dyche, according to a Sky Sports report, is the seventh permanent manager hired by Toffees owner Farhad Moshiri since he took over the club nearly seven years ago.
Lampard’s last game in charge was a 2-0 defeat at fellow strugglers West Ham on January 21, which kept them second-bottom on 15 points after 20 games – two points below the safety zone.
The Merseyside club had been floundering under the former England international, having last won a league game in October when they beat Crystal Palace 3-0 at home.
Lampard was appointed by Everton in January 2022 after he managed Chelsea from 2019/2021 and Derby County in the second tier in 2018/19, but Dyche will now be tasked with arresting the slide towards the Championship.
Dyche told the club’s official website, “It’s an honour to become Everton manager. My staff and I are ready and eager to help get this great club back on track.
“I know about Everton’s passionate fanbase and how precious this club is to them. We’re ready to work and ready to give them what they want. That starts with sweat on the shirt, effort and getting back to some of the basic principles of what Everton Football Club has stood for for a long time.”
Mourinho Compares Victor Osimhen to one of the African legend, Didier Drogba
AS Roma manager, Jose Mourinho, has compared Super Eagles of Nigeria and Napoli of Italy hitman, Victor Osimhen, to Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend, Didier Drogba.
NEWSBREAK reports that the Nigerian striker netted a world-class goal as his side, Napoli, marched towards the Serie A title on Sunday. Osimhen’s classic goal came against Mourinho’s Roma at the Diego Maradona stadium where Napoli won 2-1.
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Speaking after the match, Mourinho, a former Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid manager, said: “He (Osimhen) is of the same level as Drogba, but Didier didn’t dive.
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