In Manchester United’s 3-2 win over Norwich on Saturday, Juan Mata made a rare appearance at Old Trafford.
It was his first Premier League appearance this season at the Theatre of Dreams. Ralf Rangnick has opted to give Mata some game time in back-to-back games after he came on against Everton last weekend. Mata has not played in the league this season.
In his seven appearances in all competitions this season, the Spaniard has only made two starts and is poised to quit United when his contract expires this summer. Mata has taken a lot of free kicks in his career, but against Norwich, he gave one to Cristiano Ronaldo in the 76th minute.
Before slamming the set-piece past Canaries goalkeeper Tim Krul to clinch his 60th career hat-trick, the 33-year-old was spotted speaking with the Portugal legend. Mata joked on Twitter about what he said to Ronaldo before the free-kick was taken.
He wrote, “OK Cristiano, you shoot.” United are now only three points behind fourth place after Tottenham and Arsenal both lost their respective games against Brighton and Southampton.
They are one goal ahead of Arsenal in terms of goals scored, although they have played one more game. Nonetheless, the weekend’s results will give them hope that the race for Champions League qualifying is far from finished, with six games remaining.