The December of last season has arrived pretty early this time around. With three back to back defeats Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have their backs against the walls. This was a game which had a huge significance, not because of the opponent but because of its timing. With United losing this game, the team’s confidence and the winning momentum is now down in the dumps. Add to that the disgruntled fans and the manager now has a big, really big, week ahead of him.
The game started out with Watford putting in some good footballing display and they did have the much-deserved lead as they were the better team in the first half. But United came back in the game in the second half where Watford were happy to let United have the ball and just absorb the pressure, which they failed to do when Marcus Rashford scored the equalizer. But it was in vain as a couple of late goals meant that United had to go back with no points under their belt and of course the manager was concerned and called for improvement in the team’s performance.
“I’m always concerned when we don’t get the result we want.
“I think in the first half, for about 25 to 30 minutes, we didn’t play well and that is something we can control, we can improve and we can work on it.”
But like last game, this game too had its share of decisions which went against the reds, one of which resulted in the opening goal. The manager thought it was a clear foul but contested that he can’t be critical of these decisions.
“That’s an obvious situation. I think there is no debate, no controversy. I think that is an obvious situation, like it was obvious last week against Man City but it’s something I don’t control and I cannot even be critical of. In the eyes of everyone, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Manchester United fan or a Watford fan or whatever, it was obvious.”
Mourinho’s counterpart, when asked about the same “foul” almost accepted the fact that it should have been one but also said that Watford had been on the other side of some bad decisions and he doesn’t talk about it.
The other factor, which Mourinho didn’t really blame but rued of not having on his side was luck.
“The third factor is luck, we didn’t have it. We were the best team when we lost. Heurelho Gomes made a phenomenal save from a Zlatan Ibrahimovic header.”
The manager thought and rightly so that the second goal came unexpectedly. With the amount of pressure United mounted and the defensive approach that Watford had, no one could have seen that coming.
“We had a strong period where we showed intensity, quality and desire. There was a creation of opportunities – the goal, the almost goal when it was a great save by the opponent. We had that period where, in the stadium, everyone was thinking about Manchester United going on to score a goal and win the game.
“The game was going really well. The pressure was there and the team was trying to win, showing confidence but, in one isolated counter-attack, completely isolated – I don’t remember David [De Gea] touching the ball in the second half, they scored a goal.”
The manager did agree that the loss against Manchester City and the one mid-week meant some of the players were not positive enough and gave the example of Ashley Young on how to cope with such defeats.
“You see Ashley Young, his mentality the happiness and confidence he brought to the game is something more players need to have.”
So what is the way forward for Mourinho and his team of red devils? The manager likes to keep it simple.
“Collectively and individually, we need to get better.”
In spite of how poorly United performed, Watford should be congratulated for their performances too. Troy Deeney was not surprised by their performance and expected something of this magnitude.
“I am not surprised by how we played. We should take a bit more credit, we pressed well, condensed the space and were tough in the tackle. We need to be against teams like Manchester United who have high quality players and spend a lot of money.
“We have some really good quality players and men in there, which is the hardest part, I thought we were the better side and had a lot of chances, even when they scored we showed what we are made of and came again.”
With the Northampton Town game midweek, United will have another good opportunity to break the jinx that the past week was and get back to winning ways. It is now almost a mandatory requirement for Mourinho to win the next game in order to keep whatever little confidence and positivity that his team has. It was a good start but Mourinho has had a big stumble in his second month itself. It might be an overreaction to rule out a top four finish or even the title chances but if things don’t change drastically in the next couple of weeks, performance and results wise, United are in for one long season, especially when their city rivals are going all guns blazing.