Watford 1-2 Manchester United
Goals change games, and that was definitely the case in this Premier League 2018 encounter.
The outcome remained in the balance until the very end but, ultimately, two goals in four minutes towards the end of the first half won the contest.
A spirited Watford threatened a comeback but they have finally lost their 100 per cent record start to the season which had provided one of the early Premier League 2018 news stories.
Highlights of the game
For a side playing with confidence, it was perhaps no surprise Watford were not reluctant to try and attack United at Vicarage Road. The best of the opening exchanges saw David de Gea superbly tip a Troy Deeney effort over the bar.
The Watford skipper is a big favourite in these parts, and he is considered a big factor in the side’s fine start to the campaign which has been put down to an array of factors.
Next, it was Manchester United’s turn to attack: Alexis Sanchez had the ball in the net eight minutes later only to be denied by an offside flag.
The Chilean then forced ex-United keeper Ben Foster into action and, in a spell which was a little low on quality, perhaps we should not have been surprised with the way the opener arrived 10 minutes before the break.
Ashley Young delivered an inviting ball, and there was Romelu Lukaku to bundle the ball home in any fashion he could.
United had their dander up, and, after Foster denied Paul Pogba, one quickly became two.
Marouane Fellaini, who wasn’t expected to play after sustaining an injury on international duty for Belgium, flicked on a corner, and there was centre-back Chris Smalling bringing the ball down on his chest and swivelling expertly before volleying past Foster.
Manager Jose Mourinho’s tactics had overstretched the home side in the middle of the park, and the match would surely have been over on the stroke of half-time. But for Foster blocked another Pogba effort with his legs.
Watford improved after the break, possibly not helped by United easing off a little, but Lukaku went closest to adding another before the Hornets finally found some sting.
After Smalling blocked a goal-bound Christian Kabasele header, Abdoulaye Doucoure’s cut-back was met on the edge of the box by the unmarked Andre Gray. He superbly smashed the ball into the top corner of the net.
Watford fans urging their team in Vicarage Road
Important interceptions and crucial challenges kept the game on a knife edge with Doucoure leading Watford’s pressing and United dangerous on the counter-attack.
De Gea kept out his effort just as the match headed for stoppage time, and then came the other crucial moment.
Seconds after Matic had been shown a second yellow card, there was De Gea again to tip away a Kabasele header.
Many us fans thought it may be an equaliser, but United had held firm and Smalling had the winner – good job, for his manager wasn’t too impressed by his new look haircut!
A Premier League 2018 highlights package might not need editing for the spell in which there were three minutes and 11 seconds between United’s two goals.
Lukaku has scored 20 goals in 39 Premier League games for United since joining from Everton last summer. Only three players have reached their tally in fewer EPL games then the Belgian.
Watford have lost 15 of their last 16 clashes with Man Utd.
Until this one, Watford had won four consecutive matches in the top flight for the first time since 1988-89.
The Hornets have won 23 points at home since head coach Javi Gracia took charge in February.
Until today, Jose Holebas had been involved in more goals than any other Premier League player so far this season (one goal, four assists).
United have won the last 25 league matches in which they have scored first.
Alexis Sanchez has played six times against Watford – scoring three and setting up three.
Watford fans booed Ashley Young’s name as it was read out at the start of the match and then again when the match started.
He used to play for the Hornets before he moved to Aston Villa in January 2007. He also scored twice in this fixture last season.
This match was the start of a hectic period for United.
They will face Young Boys of Switzerland in their Champions League Group H opener next midweek before returning to Old Trafford for a home league match with Wolves and an EFL Cup tie at home to Derby County. The Cup contest will pit Mourinho against one of his former star players, one-time Chelsea star Frank Lampard.
The tough matches for Watford continue as they now prepare for a sequence of away games after a glut of home matches.
Next weekend, they travel to Fulham before facing Spurs, who they defeated a fortnight ago, at Wembley in the EFL Cup.
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