Manchester United managed to come away with a 4-2 win from Vicarage Road, after two superb Ashley Young strikes and an Anthony Martial goal had sent them 3-0 up into halftime. Goals from Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure made it a nervy ending, before Jesse Lingard’s fine solo goal ensured United kept up the pace behind City in the standings.
There was lots to talk about after the game, so let’s get right into it:
Ashley Young’s renaissance is complete
Ashley Young has proven himself to be a fighter, coming back in from the cold to virtually make the left-back spot his own this season, and earning an England recall to go with it. He supplied some flair to go with the graft at Vicarage Road, as his goals put United firmly in the driving seat after they had been struggling to get a foot on the ball. His first was superbly taken, from outside the box, driven low and hard into the corner, while his second goal evoked memories of his debut season at Old Trafford. Young bent a wicked, curling freekick into the top corner of Heurelho Gomes’ net, and after the game against Brighton where he is claiming Lewis Dunk’s own goal as his, Young’s new-found penchant for scoring is only increasing his cult hero status among the United faithful.
United need control in midfield
Mourinho switched to a back three for this game, as he often does against teams who play a back three themselves, and it may also have been practice for the games against Arsenal and City. However, it was United’s midfield which was the problem early on, as Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic were overrun by Watford’s clever positioning. While Richarlison would stay wide on the left, exploiting the space behind Antonio Valencia and looking to run at Victor Lindelof, Will Hughes was constantly coming inside from the opposite flank. With Tom Cleverley and Abdoulaye Doucoure already in the centre, Hughes’ positioning gave Watford the numerical advantage in those positions, and they found it extremely easy to play through United’s midfield. Indeed, the Hornets had more than 60% of the ball in the opening 30 minutes, even though United had scored two slightly opportunistic goals by then. Nemanja Matic’s withdrawal through injury only adds to Mourinho’s problems, and he must hope that the Serb is fit for the next two games, where United will need to exert a little more control in midfield. Bringing Ander Herrera or Marouane Fellaini in as an extra player in the middle seems to be the best option, otherwise the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne could have a field day.
Lindelof looks to have adapted
This was the Swede’s third consecutive start in the league, and he finally looks to have adjusted to playing in the Premier League. Following from his performance against Brighton at the weekend, Lindelof was superb at Vicarage Road. Playing in a back three alongside Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo, he dealt with Richarlison well, who was always looking to get a run at him. His reading of the game was astute, and he stepped in with a number of interceptions throughout the game, denying Andre Gray and Richarlison the chance to get a shot on goal. Lindelof passed out from the back as well, and his growing confidence is now evident in his game.