Juan Mata came out as the hero of the match while Manchester United extended their winning run to four matches.
The Spanish play-maker stepped up and launched a classy strike that beat Gomes and eventually sent Old Trafford in wild celebration, helping Louis van Gaal’s men to a hard-fought victory against Watford. Mata, leading United for the first time, remained a constant source of creativity, requesting his mostly lacklustre teammates onward and at last taking the initiative himself.
The away team interestingly enjoyed plenty of ball throughout the match and also had the better of the chances. But it seemed Odion Ighalo left his shooting boots at home, allowing United to pick up maximum points with Mata’s moment of genius.
Here are the five talking points from Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Watford last night:
Mata’s dead-ball expertise
Last week, the Spaniard directed home a beautiful free-kick to guide the Red Devils knock out Shrewsbury from the FA Cup. On Wednesday night he was at it again.
Before taking the shot, many thought he would go for the near post after running up to the ball 25 yards out, with Heurelho Gomes moving to his left in anticipation.
But it was a special one from Mata. He cleverly went for the far corner, the ball nestling in the net and sending Old Trafford into wild celebrations.
De Gea proves his worth again
Manchester United supporters dare not think where they would finish this term if David de Gea decided to join Real Madrid on deadline day last summer.
Last night against Watford, he made some key saves once again to frustrate Ighalo and proved his enduring worth to van Gaal. Even then, the Red Devils lived quite dangerously on occasion, not least when Watford defender Sebastian Prodl surprisingly headed wide from no more than agonising three yards. Now it remains to be seen, how Watford would live to rue those golden chances.
Depay fails again
It looks like a simple case of one step forward, two steps back for Manchester United’s £25m summer signing Memphis Depay.
Against Midtjylland and Arsenal, Depay’s performance gave some hope to the fans that he would found some form, but the same old case with him again. With another below-par display the Dutchman yet again at the centre of immense criticism. He got into decent positions on certain occasions, but his slapstick shooting never seemed like troubling Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes.
Rashford has a never back down mentality
Despite being unable to maintain his exceptional goal-scoring exploits, United’s new 18-year-old star never ever let his head drop and was actually a major threat in the second-half. The young striker was sifted to the right flank and he used his pace to good effect whenever got the chance, hitting the byline to provide some cutting edge in the closing stages against Watford.
Ighalo’s constant menace
The Watford striker had as many as four chances before the break but didn’t able to convert any of them. Not only that, he also annoyed striking partner Troy Deeney on occasion, failing to direct a pass when team-mates were seemed in better position. But his pace, movement and awareness made it an uneasy outing for United’s injury-hit defence. They will not forget this battle in near future.