Manchester United had the chance to re-enter the top four positions for the first time in recent weeks, with their next fixture being at home to Watford, a side that have won five league games away from home and are sat in the middle of the table. With Arsenal playing on Monday and Tottenham facing Liverpool on Sunday afternoon, it was a massive must for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to achieve the much needed three points as well as the victory itself in a dominant manner.
As a whole, the visitors were the ones who surprisingly started the game and ended the game on a high note, where they forced the hosts to sit deep for majority of the first half but failed to create the clear chances to test the goalkeeper David De Gea. However, the first goal of the match actually came from United, as Marcus Rashford latched onto Luke Shaw’s perfect through ball and swept it passed Ben Foster, who had rushed out from his line to do his best to put the centre forward off.
Following the Rashford goal, the Red Devils completed the first half in the ideal way, but could have done more to complete the win with the number of shots they had on goal. The two main attempts that will be remembered the most by the Old Trafford faithful at the half time break would be, Anthony Martial’s chance from a corner which was literally hit straight at Foster, and the other one being Rashford’s dribble from the right into the middle but the shot not causing any problems at all as the defenders had it covered.
The second half was the same as the first, with Watford dominating the possession of the ball and grew in more confidence by the minute whilst United were not sure whether to sit deep or to press high up the pitch. United thought the game was set and match with Martial scoring for the home team in the 72nd minute, though, the side faced a huge scare towards the end of the match as Abdoulaye Doucoure pulled a goal back for Javi Garcia’s men, who were simply not ready to give up till the final whistle.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…
Midfield were ineffective and sloppy
As the usual midfield trio of Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba came out to play at Old Trafford against Watford, it felt like the three players had not played for a long time or were not familiar of one another. The balance on both sides of the pitch was not there, as they looked out of their depth in the opposition’s half and could not defend consistently enough when required.
Both Matic and Pogba had quite a few poor moments throughout the match, where they lost possession of the ball easily and were unable to pick out the simplest of passes. Meanwhile, Herrera was alright to some extent but failed to influence the game as a whole. Given the performances in midfield, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Fred or Scott McTominay return into the team for the Wolves fixture on Tuesday night.
Watford will surely end the season on a high note
It’s been quite some time where a team from outside of the Premier League top-six had dominated and overrun the hosts at Old Trafford whilst looking like they are going onto to win the match. If Watford had an attacking midfielder with pace and trickery and a much more complete forward, they would have surely converted one of the eight shots they had on target before Doucoure had scored in the final minutes of the game.
Although the current focus is on who will win the league, who will finish in the top four and who will be relegated to the Championship, Javi Garcia’s Watford deserve more appreciation and credit for the type of football they are playing and how well they have done against the bigger teams. Leicester City and Wolves have received a lot of gratitude in recent months for their desire and results in the huge games, but it’s time for Watford to get their fair share of recognition of how they have managed to do it their way.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed when and how to make changes
The questions were raised during the matches against Arsenal and Wolves a few weeks ago, on if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the intelligence to understand when to make the substitutions and how to change the game around. In the first game after the international break, the 46-year-old Norwegian international proved the critics wrong with the two changes that helped his side to win the game.
Solskjaer showed off his cleverness in the second half of the match, where he brought on both Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard for Ander Herrera and Juan Mata, two players that went on to inject more energy and pace into the side’s midfield and attack. Ten minutes after that, Ole was forced into bringing Martial off due to a minor knock he picked up, but was smart in adding Marcos Rojo into the team and went to a back-three setup, as Watford started to pile on the pressure and were looking for the equaliser.