Manchester United 1-0 Watford: Juan Mata freekick snatches victory

by Ben Topliss

Manchester United have snatched a 1-0 victory against Watford this evening thanks to Juan Mata’s late free-kick.

A slow start to the game from Man United saw Watford almost take the lead through Odion Ighalo, but his effort trickled wide of David de Gea’s post. The Spanish keeper then had to deny Ighalo one-on-one on two occasions in the space of a few minutes as United hung on at Old Trafford. The hosts, by contrast, rarely threatened in the first period but Morgan Schneiderlin’s volley came within inches of giving Louis van Gaal’s side the lead.

In the second half, Marcus Rashford cleared off the line to keep out Sebastian Prodl’s header from a corner. United soaked up the pressure and eventually got forward themselves, with Mata coming close. Prodl then somehow missed a header from four yards out following another set-piece. It was anyone’s game to win but Mata snatched the three points for United by caressing in an excellent free-kick with just minutes left on the clock.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Van Gaal showed tremendous faith in the 18-year-old by starting him at centre-back and the youngster had a mixed bag of an evening.

Fosu-Mensah, heavily involved in the first half in particular, made a few nervy passes and he was sometimes reckless but there were other moments where he displayed excellent timing to stop Watford when they ventured forward.

Marcus Rashford

Rashford continued in the side following his two-goal display against Arsenal last time out but he struggled to get into the game in the first half along with the rest of the team.

His first significant contribution to the match was actually a defensive one, as he cleared Prodl’s header off the line. It acted as a catalyst as Rashford kicked on in the second half. On occasion, Watford had to use three defenders to stop the 18-year-old as his bright running caused the Hornets problems.

David De Gea

Save for Fosu-Mensah, United seemed to have a night off from defending, meaning De Gea had to be alert to produce two superb saves in the space of a few minutes to deny Ighalo just before the break.

The likes of Rashford and Anthony Martial have stolen the headlines as of late but the fact remains that De Gea is United’s most important player.

Juan Mata

The Spaniard had a quiet first half but he grew into the game as it went on and he eventually grabbed the winner for United.

Mata curled in a superb freekick, which drifted over the wall and into the net. In what was a tough evening for United, it was a moment of supreme quality and one that may prove pivotal come the end of the campaign.

Back in the race for the top four?

With Manchester City losing, United seized the opportunity to make ground on fourth place in the table. Watford could have quite easily beat United but the hosts somehow got the win.

They are now level on points with fourth-placed City, although Manuel Pellegrini’s side have a game in hand. It’s been a hugely topsy turvy season and what is to say that United can’t snatch Champions League football next term?

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