Manchester United suffered a 3-1 defeat against Watford at Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon to find themselves six points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester City, while having lost three games in all competitions in the space of a week.
Once again, the Red Devils looked disjointed in their attacking display and were defensively suspect too. And the obvious imbalance in the midfield has still not been correctly addressed by new manager Jose Mourinho.
United suffering from a lack of creativity
Against Watford, Manchester United really struggled to create goalscoring chances. The likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – operating as inside forwards – just couldn’t complete any crosses into the box, nor could they get in behind the opposition fullback to lay a square pass in the area for a certain goal.
Martial and Rashford created just one chance and had just one shot on target between them against Watford, while managing just two dribbles. Their influence was minimal at Vicarage Road and instead they both topped the charts for being dispossessed the most times.
47% of United’s shots were from outside the box on Sunday which set the tone for a lack of attacking threat. Their passing was negative too. Despite dominating possession (60-40), United were taught a lesson in efficiency.
Watford suffocate the space in the middle of the park
With United struggling to make chances in wide areas, a lot of pressure was on the central midfield to make opportunities, and Watford 3-4-1-2 completely stifled the Red Devils in the first-half. Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini operate as a midfield trio, the latter as the deep pivot, and the lack of a No.10 was telling. Rooney, who didn’t occupy the role until the second-half, was operating deep and had little options on the ball.
Ibrahimovic was starved of support as a result in the first-half, and snatched at a number of attempts when called upon. Pogba was ineffectual in a key area, failing to create a chance all game, and neither he, Rooney or Fellaini even managed a shot on target for their troubles. The trio managed just two chances created in open play too as they struggled to contend with a rugged Watford outfit stifling the central areas – Etienne Capoue (six tackles), Valon Behrami (four tackles), Jose Holebas (three tackles).
Manchester United are 4/7 to win the Premier League title this season, but until Jose Mourinho can address the imbalance in midfield the Red Devils could be empty-handed come May.