MANCHESTER (Reuters) - MANCHESTER UNITED 2 WATFORD 1
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrated his first game as permanent Manchester United manager with a 2-1 Premier League win over Watford at Old Trafford on Saturday as his team moved back into the top four.
But it was a far from impressive performance from United even though goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial earned the victory which moved them up to fourth in the table, level on points with third-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
After a slow start, United took the lead in the 28th minute when Luke Shaw played a delightful through ball into the path of Rashford who clipped it past advancing Watford keeper Ben Foster.
Watford enjoyed plenty of possession in United’s half and looked dangerous when breaking without causing David De Gea too much work.
United’s main problem was their midfield which barely operated as a unit. Neither the deep-lying Nemanja Matic nor Paul Pogba, in an advanced role, were anywhere near their best and that left the only effective route down the flanks.
It was from a burst down the right wing that United made sure of the points with Martial’s strike in the 72nd minute.
Substitute Jesse Lingard’s low cross caused Martial and Foster to tangle for the ball, which fell kindly for the Frenchman who hooked home United’s second.
Watford got some reward for their positive approach when Abdoulaye Doucoure slotted home in the 90th minute after an exchange of passes with Isaac Success.
“Watford started off really well and we struggled to get to grips with their tempo,” said Solskjaer who twice used the word “sloppy” in describing his team’s performance.
“We defended great, and after about 20 minutes, I felt we were more comfortable. It was more a draw, performance-wise. We’ll take the three points,” he said.
Norwegian Solksjaer, handed a three-year contract on Thursday, has led United to 15 wins in 20 matches in all competitions since taking over as caretaker manager in December.
Watford slipped to 10th with the loss but manager Javi Gracia felt his team could have got more out of the match.
“I think it was a very good performance, but a bad result. We didn’t take the chances we created in the first half. We dominated the game, we had more possession, we created more chances. But we didn’t score and they punished us. I’m a little bit frustrated,” he said.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond