Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has criticized the ‘stupid yellow card’ that contributed to Juan Mata getting the first sending off of his career as their hopes of a top-four finish suffered a huge setback on Sunday.
Mata was shown his first yellow card of the game for jumping in the way of Darren Fletcher’s quick free-kick in the 23rd minute.
And the Spaniard was given his marching orders by referee Mike Dean less than three minutes later for bringing down his former United team-mate Fletcher with a wild attempt at a tackle.
Van Gaal could not hide his frustration with Mata over the first incident, and was unhappy that the player failed to take more care to ensure he did not pick up a second booking.
“The first was a stupid yellow card,” said the United boss. “You know it is a yellow card in advance.
“When you have a yellow card you have to take care of that. The referee can always give another yellow card there and then it is a red card.
“The second you know you already have one so you have to take that into account. You damage the team.
“The decision was the turning point in the match. It is very difficult to play 10 against 11 for 60 minutes, that is the reason why we lost this game.
“We did not give many chances away. West Brom scored out of three chances and for us it is a big disappointment.’
However, Van Gaal felt aggrieved that Dean chose to book Mata for his challenge on Fletcher given his player’s previous clean record.
“The referee has to know the person who makes the tackle and Mata never hurts an opponent.
“The referee has to know the characters of the players and that is why an experienced referee is better because he knows the players and the game.
“You give two yellows in five minutes to the same person. You know also who is Juan Mata.
“I asked him (Mata) a rhetorical question. How many red cards? None. I had assumed that already.”