United pays for Mata red card in 1-0 loss at West Brom
WEST BROMWICH, England (AP) Manchester United was made to pay for Juan Mata's early sending-off in a 1-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday that damaged its ambitions of Champions League qualification from the Premier League.
Mata collected two yellow cards in three minutes to leave his side with 10 men from the 26th minute and United couldn't hold on, with Salomon Rondon scoring the winning goal in the 66th at The Hawthorns.
The loss ended United's run of four straight wins in all competitions and left the team sixth in the standings - three points behind fourth-place Manchester City, which has a game in hand.
United initially coped well with Mata's first-ever Premier League dismissal but failed to seriously threaten West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster.
West Brom finished the stronger and secured its first home win over United in the Premier League era when Sebastien Pocognoli crossed from the left toward Rondon, who controlled the ball and slammed a left-footed shot into the corner from eight meters.
''(The red card) changed the game because you have one less man in attacking areas, which affected us on the break especially,'' United captain Michael Carrick said. ''They were not causing us many problems but took their chance.''
Mata collected his first yellow card for blocking a quickly taken free kick by Darren Fletcher, a former United player. Fletcher was then tripped by Mata as he attempted to run clear from his own area, earning the Spain playmaker his first-ever Premier League dismissal. The 27-year-old Spaniard joined Chelsea in 2011 and moved to United in 2014.
''We have played 60 minutes with 10 versus 11, and this is the fifth match in 14 days,'' United manager Louis van Gaal said. ''It's very difficult to play against 11 players (in this situation). I think it's the reason why we lost.''
West Brom moved to 39 points, one adrift of the target manager Tony Pulis has set the team.
''As you've seen this year, results have been off the radar (in the Premier League),'' Pulis said. ''Let's get 40 points. I think that's definitely safe.''