Manchester United’s erratic form continued with another insipid display against opposition they would be expected to beat, as rock-bottom Watford claimed a 2-0 win at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was able to call upon the services of Paul Pogba again from the bench for the first time since September, but by the time he was introduced the game was already beyond United, who have made a habit of dropping points against teams in the bottom half.
A complete lack of cohesion plagued the Red Devils in the first half, with Jesse Lingard wasting their only genuine opportunity as their front four made a minimal impact.
Helped by a shambolic error from David de Gea, Watford got the lead in the 50th minute through Ismaila Sarr and soon made it 2-0 thanks to a Troy Deeney penalty, giving Nigel Pearson a first win as Watford boss.
A first half sorely lacking in quality failed to produce many clear-cut opportunities, but Watford thought they opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Abdoulaye Doucoure smashed home, only for referee Lee Mason to somewhat harshly deem Craig Cathcart fouled De Gea.
Lingard was then guilty of a woeful miss just past the half-hour mark, electing to chip Ben Foster when through on goal and his effort landed on the roof of the net.
United found themselves trailing just after the restart, though Watford needed a De Gea howler to score – Sarr’s tame volley bouncing up at the Spaniard and he failed to stop it squirming into the top corner.
Another lapse – this time from Aaron Wan-Bissaka – allowed Watford to extend their lead four minutes later, as the right-back clumsily tripped Sarr and Deeney smashed his spot-kick down the middle.
Pogba was introduced for Lingard just past the hour mark and showed touches of class, but he was unable to inspire a turnaround.
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) December 22, 2019
What does it mean? The same old problems for United
The inconsistent nature of United’s form continues to baffle. Although often effective against the best teams in the division, Solskjaer still has not worked out how to break down many of the Premier League’s so-called lesser sides.
An ordinary Watford team that is deservedly bottom of the table should have been straightforward opposition for United, yet at no point did they look even remotely capable of getting a win on Sunday.
A Sarr is born
Perhaps Sarr was more functional than barnstorming, but it was undoubtedly an encouraging display from the young winger. It was his shot that brought about De Gea’s error and then he won the penalty from which Deeney scored. You cannot expect much more than that from him.
De Gea becoming a target
De Gea’s form has underwhelmed of late and this was almost certainly the worst performance of the lot. He was extremely fortunate to win a free-kick in the first half when Watford thought they had scored, and his error for Sarr’s goal was inexcusable.
Key Opta Facts
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 22, 2019
– Watford ended a run of 12 home Premier League matches without a win (D5 L7), with this their first win at Vicarage Road since a 4-1 win over Fulham in April.
– Three of United’s past six top-flight losses have been against teams starting the day in the relegation zone (also versus Cardiff City in May and Newcastle United in October).
– Since saving a Leighton Baines penalty in October 2014, De Gea has failed to save any of the past 15 penalties he has faced in the league. Among goalkeepers to face 20, only Paul Robinson (six per cent) has saved a lower percentage than De Gea (eight per cent, 2/25) in Premier League history.
– Lingard has now gone over 25 hours without registering either a goal or assist in a Premier League game, last doing so in December 2018 against Huddersfield Town (one assist).
– United have won just one of their past 17 Premier League matches when they have had more possession than their opponents (W1 D8 L8), a 3-1 victory at Norwich City in October; they had 64 per cent possession on Sunday.
United return to Old Trafford on Boxing Day as they host Newcastle United. Watford go to Sheffield United the same day.
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