Manchester United have a chance in moving up from sixth place as they welcome Watford to Old Trafford. Having last the reverse matchup away at Vicarage Road back in September however, United could not risk being complacent. United fielded a strong lineup, which includes Anthony Martial returning to the starting lineup, with the only other change from last week’s 3-0 win over Leicester City being Daley Blind in place of Marcos Rojo.
United started positively, with some lovely football, but they spent a good stretch of time without threatening the Watford goal. Their biggest chance was headed straight to Heurelho Gomes by Zlatan Ibrahimovic from a Juan Mata cross. Not long after that, however, Mata opened the scoring by finishing off a low Anthony Martial cross. After a slower second half start, Martial doubled the lead with a composed finish after some quick passing play.
As his involvement in the chances created above shows, Mata was central in United’s attack. With Ibrahimovic spending a lot of the game dropped back in midfield, Mata was the one taking on the role of making the forward runs at times, stretching the defence, and among other great chances this lead to his goal. When Ibrahimovic does get forward though, Mata goes back to playing architect in beyond to similar effect.
The other player in the thick of the attacking action was Martial. He was lively from the off, but his quick, direct running didn’t lead to much initially. His perseverance and consistency in his style of play paid off immensely with an assist in the first half and a goal in his second. Was an absolute nightmare to Watford right back Craig Cathcart, repeatedly beating him for pace. Perhaps with more game time to keep up his match rhythm he could do even better.
While Martial and Mata were causing headaches to the Watford defence, behind them Ander Herrera was keeping things tidy in midfield. Herrera has taken up the role of defensive midfielder rather quietly in the last couple games, he went about his job very well today. Beyond breaking up play and closing down oppositions, Herrera’s distribution of the ball was also a highlight, his passing also playing a part for United’s second goal.
While Mata took Watford by storm in the first half, he quietened down in the second half, and this is where Martial has the upper hand. Even though his positive play didn’t lead to much outcome to begin with, he was causing problems from the very start all the way to his substitution for Marcus Rashford in the first half. Martial had been struggling to break into the starting lineup in recent weeks, but if he continues with man of the match level performances like this one, it’s quite hard to see this continuing for very long.