MAN UTD 1, WATFORD 0
Former England international Chris Waddle’s post-match analysis perfectly summed up Manchester United’s laboured Emirates FA Cup, third-round win against Watford at Old Trafford.
Stand-in captain Scott McTominay, who had been with the Reds since the age of five, came up with the decisive goal in the fifth minute of a decidedly ordinary game.Embed from Getty Images
Waddle, a pundit on BBC 5Live, said: “This is all about the result but the performance has not been great by Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will know that but it’s about the win.
“They have been so sloppy tonight but to give Watford credit, they have turned up and they have had a go, working hard for a new manager.
“For the players that have come in for Manchester United tonight, I don’t think they can go knocking on the manager’s door.”
Watford certainly showed a steely resolve after falling behind so early before suffering a 10th straight defeat at Old Trafford where they last won in 1979.
McTominay, who described it as a “surreal moment” to be captain, said: “We started really well and then for the first half an hour we were really good, moved the ball really well and there was some good combination play.
“Then we couldn’t find it after that as well. The second half I didn’t think we played anywhere near our level.
“For the boys coming into the team it is difficult, they haven’t played for a long time. The manager said ‘get your rhythm’ and he probably wasn’t expecting the rhythm we got in the first 30 minutes. But then there were some tired minds. But credit to the boys.”
Solskjaer praised the leadership qualities of McTominay, a player he described as having the “the DNA of Manchester United in him”.
He said it was important to rotate the team in light of the hectic schedule.
Solskjaer, reflecting on the game, explained: “We started brightly, but expected it to be the other way.
“We thought it would take 20 minutes to find our rhythm. After that we lost too many balls too easily making difficult decisions and complicating things
United made nine changes with only goalkeeper Dean Henderson and midfielder Scott McTominay, who was named as captain, surviving from Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester City.
It meant a place on the bench for Bruno Fernandes, who was joined by former Watford striker Odion Ighalo, who could make a farewell appearance for United given his loan ends at the end of the month.
Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire were all on the bench, but Paul Pogba was not involved.
It was a first FA Cup tie for new Watford manager Xisco Munoz, who has presided over a win and a defeat in his two games in charge.
Joao Pedro returned from injury, while Philip Zinckernagel was handed his debut following the Dane’s arrival at Vicarage Road last week.
McTominay led by example as he gave the Reds a fifth minute lead after goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann had turned over a rasping drive from Daniel James.
The Scot met Alex Telles’ corner with his downward header from 10 yards going in off the upright for his fourth goal of the season.
After dominating the opening. Watford had their first chance in the 15th minute from a free kick when Adam Masina was clean through.
Henderson blocked his shot but, as the ball trickled towards goal, Axel Tuanzebe cleared off the line.
Watford gained confidence as the half progressed and had other moments which left United nervy at the back.
United almost doubled their lead shortly before half time following a slick passing move which put Juan Mata clean through, but Bachmann blocked well to rescue the Hornets.
Maguire was summoned in first half stoppage time when Eric Bailly was forced off after a collision with Henderson who punched a cross clear. He was clearly concussed as he left the field assisted by medical staff.
James forced a save from Bachmann soon after the restart but the match was drifting along aimlessly with a distinct lack of quality from both sides.
United, keen to out the game to bed, brought on Rashford and Martial mid-half as James and Mason Greenwood were withdrawn.
And Nemanja Matic was also introduced in place of Jesse Lingard.
Rashford failed to match his electrifying run with an equally emphatic finish as Bachmann easily saved.