Long way to go this football season: Mata

Barcelona, Sep 12 (IANS) Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata preferred to look beyond the recent defeat to cross town rivals Manchester City, stating that the season has just started and there is so much football still to be played.

City had defeated United 2-1 in the Manchester Derby last Saturday to register their fourth win in as many games and maintain their top spot in the English Premier League (EPL) table with 12 points.

All the goals came in the first half with Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho scoring for City while star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic capitalised on an error by City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to pull one back for United just before the break.

“We have suffered the first defeat of the season and, after the initial disappointment, I think there is no time for mourning. On the contrary, it’s time to analyse the aspects of our game that we need to improve, and carry on with hope and motivation. It was an important game, but let’s be realistic: the season has just started and there is still a long way to go,” Mata wrote in his blog www.juanmata8.com on Monday.

“Obviously, the result was painful for us, both for the fans and for the team. Losing a derby is always something tough to take, but I’m sure there are many good moments for us to enjoy in the next few months,” the former Chelsea winger added.

Mata admitted that City were the better team in the first half.

“To summarise the game before moving on, I would say that City were better than us in the first half, but after Zlatan’s goal and our improvement in the second half, the game was pretty much alive,” he wrote.

“When things became more box-to-box they took advantage of it and also had chances to get more goals, but finally the score didn’t change and the three points slipped away from us. Yes, three points, because in the end, and despite the game being a peculiar one, it wasn’t a final or anything like that, since we are in September,” he added.

“We have to remain positive and, as from now, think about next Thursday.”

United will now take on Feyenoord in their Europa League opener on Thursday and Mata warned that it won’t be easy against the in-form Dutch outfit.

“On Thursday we’re going to play the first game in the Europa League, away against Feyenoord, a classic in European football. They have one European Cup in their trophy cabinet and they are having a great start of the season, with five wins in five league games. It’s going to be a very demanding debut in this competition,” he added.

Talking about United’s next EPL game against Watford, Mata said: “The Premier League will be back next Sunday with a visit to Watford. Last season we struggled a lot to beat them, both at home and away, so I have no reason to think it’s going to be easy this time.”

“They just won at West Ham after a good comeback and they have scored in every game so far. It’s meant to be a tough game and if we want to get the three points we will have to be at our best.”

Talking about La Liga — the Spanish top division — where promoted Deportivo Alaves stunned FC Barcelona in the weekend, Mata said every team this season is competitive, adding he hopes his former team Valencia record their first win soon.

“In La Liga, the big surprise was Alaves, a historic team, winning at the Camp Nou. They are just back in the first division and have shown how competitive the league is. Every single club in Spain has talented players who are able to make you win every game, as we could see this week,” Mata said.

“Real Madrid had a solid win against Osasuna and they are the only team with three victories out of three games. Atletico, meanwhile, got their first win, a convincing one, in Vigo against Celta. Of the other games I’d like to highlight the fans of Valencia giving an ovation to Joaquin when he scored for Betis, despite the local team was losing. I hope my former team win the first game soon and they can start a good streak to climb up the table quickly.”

The ongoing Paralympic Games has also caught Mata’s eye.

“By the way, the Paralympic Games in Rio started last week. Beyond medals and results, I want to show my support and admiration to all these athletes because they are a leading example to us and show how good sports can be to society. They are true examples of self-improvement.”

–IANS

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