Friday, 4 March 2016

Man Utd vs Watford


Barclays Premier League | 2 March 2016 | Old
Trafford | Attendance: 75,282 | Scorers: Mata 83

A late free-kick from Juan Mata gave Manchester
United an important victory over Watford on
Wednesday night.
The midfielder, named captain ahead of the game
in the absence of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick
and Chris Smalling, stepped up to curl home a
delightful effort on 83 minutes to settle a hard-
fought contest at Old Trafford.
Anthony Martial was named in a youthful starting
line-up after recovering from a recent hamstring
injury, while in-form striker Marcus Rashford
retained his place up front. 21-year-old
midfielder Joe Rothwell was named among the
substitutes, the latest on a long list of youngsters
to appear in a first-team squad this season.
Louis van Gaal’s men went into the clash on the
back of Sunday’s confidence-boosting victory over
Arsenal, but it was the visitors who started on the
front foot, looking early to Troy Deeney and Odion
It was United, though, who almost took the lead on
seven minutes, as Daley Blind’s cross was sliced
towards his own goal by Jose Holebas, but
Heurelho Gomes was alert to the danger. The Reds
also might have scored when Ander Herrera’s deep
cross reached an unmarked Martial at the far post,
but the Frenchman couldn’t direct his header on
Watford were eager to show why they have earned
so many plaudits since winning promotion from the
Championship, and created an opening of their own
through Ighalo, who found half a yard before seeing
his goal-bound effort deflect wide. United
meanwhile were yet to settle into any sort of
rhythm, but a superb challenge from Tim Fosu-
Mensah – making his first start for the club –
sparked some life into the Reds.
Van Gaal’s men went within inches of taking the
lead on 19 minutes when Mata’s free-kick was
cleared as far as Morgan Schneiderlin, who hit a
dipping volley from 25 yards that dropped just wide
of Gomes’ right-hand post.
With both sides looking to attack but lacking in end
product, the Hornets again went close just before
the half-hour mark. Again, Ighalo’s clever
movement bought the striker some space in the
area, but his shot bobbled narrowly wide with De
Gea rooted to the spot.
The best opportunities of an closely-contested half
came shortly before the break, and unsurprisingly
fell at the feet of Ighalo. The Nigerian raced onto a
misplaced header and into the box, but De Gea
stuck out a leg to keep the scores level, before the
goalkeeper was called into action once more on 42
minutes. Ighalo again latched onto a loose pass,
but the Spaniard dived at his feet to deny what
should have been the opener, and in turn earn the
praise of Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores, his
former coach at Atletico Madrid, as the teams
walked down the tunnel.
POSSESSION: United 64% Watford 36%
SHOTS (ON TARGET): United 6 (1) Watford 8 (3)
CORNERS: United 3 Watford 3

The second half began as the first had ended, and
Watford were almost celebrating a goal just three
minutes after the interval. Etienne Capoue picked
up the ball in midfield and unleashed a fierce strike
which zipped just over De Gea’s crossbar.
Sebastian Prodl went even closer for the visitors
minutes later, when his header was cleared off the
line by Rashford following a Watford corner.
The Hornets were on top, and might have taken
advantage through Ighalo 10 minutes into the
second period, as the striker turned Fosu-Mensah
and curled a shot past the post. They were almost
punished on the hour–mark though, as Mata stung
the palms of Gomes from the edge of the area, in
United’s first meaningful attack of the half.

The Reds were growing in confidence and, urged
forward by the fans, created two great openings in
quick succession. First, Rashford showed quick
footwork to get to the byline and drove a low cross
into the area, before Mata’s curling effort flew past
the diving Gomes and ended up well wide.
Watford were quick to remind United that they
possessed an attacking threat, and had a couple of
chances of their own as the game entered its final
stages. As the Hornets pressed, Blind’s attempted
clearance ricocheted off Fosu-Mensah and into the
path of Nordin Amrabat, but the substitute couldn’t
apply the finish. From the corner that followed,
Prodl raced in at the back post and headed inches
wide, in a sequence that summed up the game to
that point.

The all-important goal finally came with seven
minutes remaining, as Miguel Britos brought down
Martial on the edge of the area. Mata stepped up
to convert the resulting free-kick, bending a
beautiful effort over the wall and beyond the reach
of Gomes. The Spaniard was withdrawn late on, to
a much-deserved ovation from those inside Old
Trafford, with his goal earning the Reds a vital
three points.

POSSESSION: United 61% Watford 39%
SHOTS (ON TARGET): United 14 (3) Watford 13 (3)
CORNERS: United 7 Watford 7

United: De Gea, Varela, Blind, Rojo (Darmian 70),
Fosu-Mensah, Schneiderlin, Herrera (Lingard 77),
Martial, Mata (McNair 89), Memphis, Rashford.
Subs not used: Romero, Riley, Rothwell, Weir.
Booked: Fosu-Mensah.

Watford: Gomes; Nyom, Britos, Prödl, Holebas,
Capoue, Watson, Behrami (Anya 86), Abdi (Suarez
70), Deeney, Ighalo (Amrabat 74).
Subs not used: Pantilimon, Cathcart, Paredes, Ake.
Booked: Britos, Amrabat.

“We are fighting. In the fight, we've played a
fantastic match against Arsenal, and I believe
against Midtjylland we also played very well. The
win against Shrewsbury Town was the start of the
run of victories; I think the youngsters have given
us a lot of spirit, and now when you see the
dressing room full of joy with all the players
laughing, it’s beautiful to see. I think that shall also
accelerate the recovery of the players.” - Louis van

"I think it was very important to win today. It
wasn't the prettiest game we've played all season,
but especially because our rivals didn't win their
games, it's a massive victory for us. That's why we
celebrated the way we did." - Juan Mata.


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