Report: Watford 3-1 Manchester United – Premier League 2016/17

Manchester United ended a tough week with another loss making it three in three games after an abysmal 3-1 defeat to Watford. Goals for Capoue, Zuniga and Deeney saw off a confused United side with no clear structure or form. Marcus Rashford managed to himself on the score sheet which was pretty much the only positive from this United performance.

Jose Mourinho as expected made big changes from the game against Feyenoord midweek with Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming in to replace Matteo Darmian, Marcus Rojo, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata. Set up as a 4-3-3 to suit Pogba meaning that Rooney sat deeper which is clearly a change in plan for Mourinho considering he said pre-season that he wouldn’t use the United captain in a deeper role. United fans happy to see Rojo removed from the team sheet with Shaw coming back in and the exciting addition of Marcus Rashford playing as one of the attacking three replacing Juan Mata, a move guaranteed to add pace and potency to the starting XI.

United began the first half brightly with good tempo and created the first chance of the game, it came from a free-kick in the second minute as Smalling headed wide a Rooney free-kick. Then it became all Watford, as centre-back Prodl headed across the face of goal but no one to tap it in. Ighalo then produced the miss of the season after a horrible mistake between De Gea and Smalling gave the Watford striker an open goal but he blasted it wide. Watford having the better of the early proceedings and again in the 16th minute, Deeney powered a header towards the far corner  but De Gea pulls out a terrific save to keep it level. United had their best chance after 21 minutes when Ibrahimovic meets Marcus Rashford’s cross and volleyed into the side netting! United nearly broke the deadlock after 30 minutes after Pogba shifts past one and rattled the bar from 25 yards out.

With chances at both ends, Watford broke the deadlock in slightly controversial fashion, Martial was clattered up the pitch and Watford broke down their right, ball into the box and Etienne Capoue slotted home making it 1-0. As a result from an earlier clash of heads, Anthony Martial came off for Ashley Young. After a clumsy challenge from Pogba at the end of the half, Watford’s Holebas produced a save from De Gea direct from the free-kick. Rashford blazed over the bar trying to find the far post which turned out to be the last kick of the half as the teams came off with the scoreline.

After the break Jose Mourinho makes a change and switches back to 4-2-3-1 with Rooney behind Ibrahimovic. United again had the better start with Ibrahimovic blasting wide from just outside the box and then Rashford winning a corner which came to nothing. Both teams creating little as the game went on and in an attempt to change it up more Mata comes on for Antonio Valencia with young dropping to right-back.

After 62 minutes, a lovely interplay with Rashford and Ibrahimovic lead to the ball being lobbed up to the back post where Rashford stabbed the ball beyond the line to make it 1-1! Finally, the spark United needed and however scrappy it was, it was a foothold back into the game. United had a couple of free-kicks that came to nothing from either side, first Ibrahimovic hit a low shot into the wall and then Mata’s floated ball was dealt with easily. Both teams lacking a clinical edge in the final third and frustration started to set in with silly fouls being committed. However, on 79 minutes, Fellaini dinked a lovely ball into the box and Ibrahimovic meets it well forcing a top save from Gomes.

82 minutes and Watford shut up shop with another defender coming on for their goalscorer Capoue, or so it seemed until the defender in question Zuniga walks through the United defence and after a low cross, finishes well into the bottom corner 60 seconds after coming on to make it 2-1 to Watford. United threw Memphis on for five minutes in an attempt to get something from the game. Memphis shows his frustration getting booked for dissent after a silly foul. With four minutes of added time at the end of the game, United would have hoped to score a trademark late goal but a yellow card for Rooney followed and to rub salt in the wounds, Watford are awarded a soft penalty which Troy Deeney converts.

United slump to a third loss in a row. Mourinho has some work to do on and off the pitch to bring this back for United, Rooney seems undroppable but his form has been atrocious. With no clear formation or his best starting XI decided, United will have to recover and face League 1 side Northampton Town on Wednesday in the EFL Cup. If United play the way they did this week, the Cobblers will fancy their chances of causing a cup upset.

Goals: Marcus Rashford 62′

Assists: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 62′

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia (Mata 62′), Smalling, Bailly, Shaw (Memphis 85′); Fellaini, Pogba; Rashford, Rooney, Martial (Young 38′); Ibrahimovic

Substitutes Not Used: Romero, Blind, Carrick, Herrera

Bookings: Paul Pogba 75′, Marouane Fellaini 88′, Memphis Depay 89′, Wayne Rooney 90+2′

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