That says plenty about United’s struggles. In matches like this, their lack of imagination and precision in attack prevents them from building up any momentum, or putting any sustained pressure on the opposition. “There was no intent or urgency to make us win the game,” said Solskjaer.
Their only chance of a dire first half fell to Jesse Lingard, who inexplicably tried to chip Ben Foster when clean through on goal. “I don’t think the chip was the right option,” said Solskjaer. “He knows he has to score,” said Harry Maguire.
Watford were hardly playing flowing football of their own, yet they were effective and hard-working. There was plenty of evidence here, with Ismaila Sarr and Troy Deeney both causing problems in attack, to suggest that survival is a more than realistic goal as they enter the second half of the campaign.
In those two attackers, and in Gerard Deulofeu, Pearson has three forwards capable of dragging Watford up the table. The key will be providing a platform for them to thrive. They did so here, with the likes of Will Hughes and Christian Kabasele putting in terrific shifts in midfield and defence respectively. “We were organised, we were disciplined,” said Pearson. “We have to sustain our positive intent and our ability to go into these types of games and perform.”
United were painfully sloppy in the first half, with Fred, Lingard and Marcus Rashford all guilty of wasting possession. Behind them, Scott McTominay kept it conservative rather than looking to use the speed of his attackers.
They were floundering in attack in these early sages, then, but at least they were looking relatively solid in defence. That all changed in the 50th minute, when De Gea allowed Sarr’s harmless effort through his gloves and into the back of the United net.
It came from a simple free-kick, delivered by Hughes, and there appeared to be little danger when Sarr’s be seen criticising aspects of Barcelona’s play in an exuberant manner as they were beaten by Real Madrid.”Obviously, moving to Barcelona is a big step and Eder knew it was because we’d spoken about it,” former Athletic Club striker Manu Sarabia tolshot bounced into the ground. De Gea, though, simply allowed it to spin through his fingers. The Spaniard fell to the floor, his face in his hands, in full knowledge that this goal was his responsibility and his alone. It meant that he had gone 13 successive Premier League appearances without keeping a clean sheet, the longest run in his career.
De Gea could do little about the second, scored by Deeney from the penalty spot just three minutes later. Again it was Sarr causing problems, surging between two United defenders before he was cleaned out by the sliding Wan-Bissaka. There could be no doubt about the decision and Deeney calmly struck his first goal of an injury-ravaged season.
Solskjaer soon turned to his bench, calling for Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba, finally fit again after the ankle and illness problems that had restricted him to just six appearances this campaign. One of the Frenchman’s first contributions was to thud the ball directly into Fred’s face, although a bit of rustiness can perhaps be excused considering he has not featured since September. “When Paul came on, that was probably the only plus for us today,” said Solskjaer.
There were glimpses of goal for United, but nothing more. Maguire’s header wSouthampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.The Englishman held onto the number one jersey after featuring against Arsenal in February.”It didn’t start too well, as I wasn’t playing many games,” said Gunn.”When I signed, I kenham midfielder Harry Winks is angry over doubts regarding his fitness.Winks, 23, has already missed World Cup and Nations League tournaments and had to celebrate his Tottenham’s epic Champions League semi-final triumph against Ajax via FaceTime becnew it was going to be a fight beas saved by Foster, Greenwood lofted a bouncing effort over the top and Rashford’s low effort was too close to the Watford goalkeeper. Once again, United lacked both the self-belief and the quality to threaten a comeback.