We’ve all had a couple of days to digest this, and it doesn’t really get any less brilliant no matter how many times you watch it.
Three key bits to this…
i) When you watch games on television, it’s really easy to overlook certain things. In this instance, look how many Manchester United players are around Juan Mata when he plays his pass and notice how few options the Spaniard actually has to progress the play. From this angle, it looks as if Oscar is free on the edge of the box to have a pass slid into him, but in reality Phil Jones probably would have cut that out.
ii) The only dangerous ball available to Mata is the one he plays, and it’s incredibly low percentage. With a shallower trajectory, Rio Ferdinand cuts this out, but with too much loft or with too much pace, David De Gea would be able to get off his line quick enough to negate the threat. Everything about the chipped through ball has to perfect – the height, the pace, the placement, and the depth. It drops equidistant between Ferdinand and De Gea, and that’s what causes Manchester United the problem. Those with an agenda against Ferdinand will claim that if he was five years younger then he would be covering this, but that’s deeply unfair on Mata – the pass is un-defendable.
iii) At this point, there are plenty of forwards in the league who would have taken a lunging swing at the ball, and skied it into the stand. Because De Gea has had to reposition himself so quickly, his weight is distributed all wrong (look at his feet), and the right touch from Demba Ba will leave him helpless. The Senegalese just guides the ball into the opposite corner, wrong-footing the United goalkeeper completely. It’s cliched, but it’s a lesson as to why a well-positioned shot is almost always more effective than one which has just been powerfully struck. Also, don’t underestimate how difficult it is for Ba to keep control of this as he stretches and losses his balance – it’s a perfect connection under very difficult circumstances.
It may look simple, but it’s actually a perfectly executed bit of play between two players demonstrating the finest facets of their respective skill-sets.
It’s glorious, and how fitting that something of this quality should send a side to Wembley.