After seeing the likes of Leicester City, Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur drop crucial points on Saturday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United went on to beat Nigel Pearson’s Watford in what was quite the comfortable and straightforward victory at Old Trafford on a Sunday afternoon.
Ahead of the game, the main thoughts on a United point of view was if they can taken the advantage for once from the results of the other teams above them, as they have failed to do so on many occasions throughout the season and it is why they are currently not in the top four positions. Meanwhile, for Watford, who still remain in the relegation zone and just a point away from safety, the questions were if they could pull off an upset against a big side or would their poor run continue.
Looking at it as a whole, the hosts had unsurprisingly dominated possession from start to end, along with creating a couple of clear-cut chances and completing just under 10 shots on target. Although it took the side some time to get into the game, with the visitors pressing high up the pitch and causing a number of problems, they were able to play on the front foot after the half hour period.
With the crucial goals coming from the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, the side were able to work on their inconsistent home form and show to the neutral supporters that the race for a top four finish is not over anytime soon. And the side should have had a fourth goal here and there, but Daniel James was sadly not convincing enough in front of goal.
On the other hand, the Hornets posed a decent threat through a few set pieces and on the counter-attack, with a goal from Troy Deeney being harshly ruled out due to an apparent handball from Craig Dawson. Watford will want to work on their performances and decision making in the final third of the pitch, as they did not create a single chance and ended the game with just four shots completed.
In the end, United made the advantage count and picked up the much needed win, allowing them to move above Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield United into fifth place. And for Nigel Pearson’s Watford, there will be a huge amount of concerns and fears on what is in store for them for the rest of the season, as they still need to face the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal.
Here are the three things we learnt in United’s latest league fixture…
Bruno Fernandes completes another perfect performance
Completing one goal and one assist in his third league game for Manchester United, it just feels like Bruno Fernandes has been playing in the Premier League and at Old Trafford for a number of years. Once again, he has shown the capability that he can play in many areas and is able to be seen as the heartbeat of the side’s attack, as he continues to show his intelligence and class on and off the ball.
As long as the movement and pace are up there in the final third of the pitch, he is able to create the clear-cut chances that the likes of Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood are always looking for. With Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba still remaining on the sidelines and are not expected to return from injury anytime soon, Solskjaer along with the squad are blessed with an individual that they can depend and rely on, who is able to create something out of nothing and is also quite a vocal leader.
The Red Devils produce the ideal result and performance after a long time
It’s been a long time since United have been able to match the three points along with a convincing performance and a number of goals. The last time they completed that, was against Norwich in the second week of January, which still feels like a long time ago for a side that wants to reach Champions League football and start challenging for the league title once again. Despite the lack of quality and squad depth, the team are making small steps of progress, whether it can be seen or not.
Having won back-to-back league games for the third time this campaign, the side’s consistency and effectiveness on both sides of the pitch is starting to show its rewards, as they once looked close to finishing in the middle of the league but are now a couple of points behind fourth-place Chelsea. With the side yet to reach their peak and are still missing a few key individuals within the line-up, who knows what the squad are capable of achieving if they all have the same winning mindset.
Can Solskjaer do the unthinkable and guide the team to a top four finish?
For sure, the side’s chances of finishing in the top four does look slim, especially when you consider the difficult run of games United still have and how they are also busy with the Europa League fixtures. However, if the results in the remaining league matches go in their favour and they are able to pick up maximum points from now till the end, anything can really happen in the Premier League.
The victory against Watford makes it their 11th league win of the season, with only the four teams above United that have won more games than them so far this campaign. And given the situation that the noisy neighbours Manchester City have found themselves in with the UEFA, with them receiving a two-year ban from Champions League football, it could potentially mean that if Solskjaer’s Manchester United were to finish in fifth-place, they could actually qualify for next season’s Champions League.