English Premiership

Manchester United puncture Watford's bubble

2018-09-15 20:55
Jose Mourinho (Getty Images)

Watford - Manchester United punctured Watford's bubble on Saturday, withstanding late pressure from the surprise early Premier League pacesetters to win 2-1 and relieve the pressure on beleaguered manager Jose Mourinho.

United have endured a miserable start to the season, losing two of their first four matches and slipping well off the searing pace set by Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford themselves.

But two goals in three first-half minutes from in-form Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling gave them valuable breathing space at half-time and ultimately paved the way to a victory that ended Watford's perfect record.

Rocked by United's strong finish to the first half, Watford pulled a goal back midway through the second period through Andre Gray but failed to find an equaliser despite a strong finish.

Mourinho opted for power rather than guile at Vicarage Road with a physically imposing midfield trio of Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Nemanja Matic.

Former Watford player Ashley Young came in at left-back to replace Luke Shaw, who suffered a head injury while on England duty last week.

The first half an hour was even as the two sides tested each other out - United probed but the home side looked dangerous on the break, confidence coursing through the players on the back of four straight wins.

Watford went close to breaking the deadlock when Troy Deeney forced David de Gea to tip over just after the quarter-hour mark.

Midway through the half Alexis Sanchez had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside, and minutes later the Chilean forced a fine save from Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster following a jinking run.

United, backed by their vocal travelling fans, who regularly chanted the name of Mourinho, were establishing a foothold in the game and made their pressure count in the 35th minute.

Watford failed to clear a free-kick and when the ball came back in, Lukaku was on hand to bundle the ball in off his midriff to score his seventh goal as many games for club and country this season.

Foster then kept out a powerful Pogba drive but United were two up in the 38th minute when Smalling controlled a Fellaini header following a corner, and smashed the ball home.

Buoyant United then nearly grabbed a third but Foster saved well from Pogba as Watford kept the score at 2-0 at the break.

But Javi Gracia's side came right back into the game in the 65th minute when Abdoulaye Doucoure picked out Gray, who smashed home, giving De Gea no chance.

That goal infused the team and the fans with renewed belief and United suddenly looked nervy.

Doucoure saw a late left-foot shot from outside the box saved at the near post as time ran out.

Matic was sent off for a second yellow card but Watford did not have time to make their extra man count, with De Gea pulling off an outstanding save to tip away a Christian Kabasele header in the dying seconds.

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Fixtures
Saturday, 22 September 2018
Fulham v Watford, Craven Cottage 13:30
Liverpool v Southampton, Anfield 16:00
Cardiff City v Manchester City, Cardiff City Stadium 16:00
Leicester City v Huddersfield Town, King Power Stadium 16:00
Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Old Trafford 16:00
Crystal Palace v Newcastle United, Selhurst Park 16:00
Burnley v AFC Bournemouth, Turf Moor 16:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur, The American Express Community Stadium 18:30
Sunday, 23 September 2018
West Ham United v Chelsea, London Stadium 14:30
Arsenal v Everton, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Saturday, 29 September 2018
West Ham United v Manchester United, London Stadium 13:30
Arsenal v Watford, Emirates Stadium 16:00
Manchester City v Brighton & Hove Albion, Etihad Stadium 16:00
Everton v Fulham, Goodison Park 16:00
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Southampton, Molineux Stadium 16:00
Newcastle United v Leicester City, St. James' Park 16:00
Huddersfield Town v Tottenham Hotspur, The John Smith's Stadium 16:00
Chelsea v Liverpool, Stamford Bridge 18:30
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