Mata scores as Man United leaves it late to beat Watford
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Juan Mata scored with a late free kick as Manchester United continued its revival on Wednesday, beating Watford 1-0 in the Premier League to draw level on points with crosstown rival Manchester City.
Mata brilliantly lifted the ball over the wall and into the top corner in the 83rd minute as the unimpressive hosts secured their first back-to-back league wins since November.
United is fifth with 47 points, but now trails City only on goal difference after its derby rival lost 3-0 at Liverpool. However, City also has a game in hand.
Watford had the majority of the chances in an uneventful first half, with Odion Ighalo going close on a number of occasions. United keeper David de Gea used his feet to block the Watford forward's best chance, though Ighalo should arguably have squared the ball to strike partner Troy Deeney.
The second half continued much as the first had finished, with neither team creating any clear cut chances.
The breakthrough came after Anthony Martial won a free kick 22 yards (meters) out. Mata's curling free-kick left Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes with no chance as he watched the ball sail into the top corner.
''It was a heavy game, a physical game, and they were twice as physical as us,'' United manager Louis van Gaal said. ''I have to give a lot of compliments to my players.''
United, which is now knocking on the door of the Champions League places, has won its last four games in all competitions.