Jesse Lingard’s excellent solo goal sealed a nervous Manchester United win against a spirited Watford.
Watford were rocked by a first-half brace of the highest quality from Ashley Young, and a calm finish from Anthony Martial meant that United carried a 3-0 lead into the break. The Hornets fought back in the second half, pushing United back until Marcos Rojo conceded a penalty, which was converted by Troy Deeney in the 77th minute. Seven minutes later, Abdoulaye Doucoure had made it 3-2, but as Watford pushed for an equaliser, Lingard produced a classy run and finish to seal victory for United.
Here are five things we learned from the game:
Elder statesman Young on form
At 32-years-old, Ashley Young has managed to reinvent himself under Jose Mourinho. His fantastic form at left wing-back has kept Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind on the fringes of the first-team.
He followed up his contribution to the winning goal against Brighton over the weekend with two top class strikes. His first was a searing half-volley that rifled into the near post, giving Heurelho Gomes no chance. The second was even better, a David Beckham-esque free-kick, whipped with curve and menace.
With games against Arsenal and Manchester City next, he could not be hitting this purple patch at a better time.
Lindelof slowly settling in
Victor Lindelof endured a less than ideal start to life at Manchester United. It reached its nadir with his terrible performance in the loss at Huddersfield, with many writing the Swedish centre-back off.
He has slowly begun turning around his performances, and he was arguably United’s best defensive player, doing particularly well to keep Richarlison quiet for most of the game. Players of the calibre of Nemanja Vidic have made poor starts to their United careers, so Lindelof may yet prove why he earned himself the nickname “Iceman” while at Benfica.
Watford need to work on their composure
Marco Silva will be furious with his side. They were dominating the game for the opening 15 minutes, but then collapsed due to defensive errors. Kiko Femenia failed to control the ball for the first, Doucoure fouled Paul Pogba twice in one run for the second, and the third was a result of the entire defence getting sliced open after a botched clearance.
Then, after fighting their way back into the game with some good pressure, their defence collapsed again as Lingard ran at them to seal the win for United. Watford are a good side, but they need to improve their composure at the back. If they do, they can start turning these performances into points.
Lingard playing his way into the team
Over the past couple of months, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata have been average to disappointing in the attacking midfield position. Against Watford, Jesse Lingard staked his claim for the spot.
Lingard was full of direct running, and tormented the Watford backline, capping off his excellent performance with a stunning solo effort to seal the game. His graft and energy might be just what United need against Arsenal and City. If nothing else, he has given Mourinho a new and welcome selection headache.
Matic’s absence led to loss of control
One headache that Mourinho could do without, however, is Nemanja Matic’s possible groin injury. Matic was withdrawn early in the second half, and with him went United’s control of the game. Gaps opened up in midfield, and Tom Cleverley began to dictate the flow of the ball alongside Doucoure.
Mourinho will be hoping that the injury is nothing serious, as he has no one capable of filling the Serb’s shoes in defensive midfield. Neither Marouane Fellaini nor Ander Herrera operates with the calmness and efficiency that Matic provides, and losing him would be a hammer blow for the upcoming weeks.