With Mourinho’s men knowing that a win would take them to within a point of City before their trip to Bournemouth, United came out on the offensive and applied the pressure early as a flurry of first-half chances fell to Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Mata, who all failed to capitalise before a deflected Martial shot looped narrowly wide.
United’s ongoing profligacy in front of goal looked to be continuing, as Watford attacked and Jose Holbas struck a thunderous shot that just flew just past the right-hand post from his position out on the left.
However, this only appeared to inject more urgency into this dominant United team, as Pogba’s rasping shot from long range was narrowly pushed wide by Gomes. United’s pressure grew as Zlatan volleyed over and was denied by Gomes with a point blank header, before Mkhitaryan also skied his effort over the bar.
It only appeared a matter of team before the scoring was opened, and it was a lovely team goal from United. Mkhitaryan combined well with Mata before releasing Martial down the wing to lay a first-time, low cross across the goal for Mata to steer past Gomes, taking United into half time with a lead they thoroughly deserved.
United began the second half in first gear, as if they thought the game had already been won, but their dominance grew from there. This was showcased in a well-constructed move that saw the ball land at Martial’s feet. The winger, who had been on fire in the first half, danced into the box before cutting back and finishing clinically into the near post through a sea of Watford defenders, who could only stand and watch as the ball cannoned into the back of the net, increasing united’s lead to 2-0.
From then on, United looked assured throughout the second half, apart from a powerful Watford free kick which was smartly saved by De Gea, who was solid for the entirety of the match. United maintained control, creating chance after chance, but there were no more goals to speak of, and the game ended 2-0.
De Gea: 8
Didn’t put a foot wrong all match. Was immense when called upon, such as the Zarate free kick.
Solid in defence made a couple of good overlaps on the right flank.
Immense in defence. Made some brilliant challenges. A calming presence at the back.
Solid without being spectacular.
Linked up with Martial nicely at times. Deliveries into the box need to be better.
A solid, mature performance. His more flamboyant tendencies were largely absent, but he showed his class with some excellent balls.
Played a crucial role breaking up Watford attacks while helping man United maintain their dominance in midfield.
A relatively quiet game for the Armenian. Whilst he played a crucial role in the opener, and has scored some great goals for us already, he needs to be hitting the target with his shots more regularly.
A important presence on the right of midfield. He linked up very well with Mkhitaryan. Scored the opener and United looked a lesser team after his substitution.
Our man of the match caused panic in the Watford defence every time he ran at them with his pace and trickery. Scored a great goal after a great run, and laid on the opener for Mata.
Another off day for Zlatan. Missed two great chances from point blank range. Also seems to be caught offside too often.
Substitutes: None of them really made an impact
3 things we learned
Mata demonstrates his worth
The Spaniard was at the heart of everything, orchestrating attacks from his right-hand flank. United looked a different prospect, and struggled for creativity, when he was withdrawn.
The profligacy persists
United need to improve their shot to goal ratio. Whilst there’s lots to admire in the number of chances created, there continues to be a lack of ruthlessness in finished them. Better teams than Watford have and will punish United for this.
Martial’s message to Mourinho
Martial’s superb performance gave Mourinho good reason to consider starting him every week. He is playing with renewed focus, and adds pace and creativity to a sometimes stagnant United attack.