Manchester United capped off their penultimate game of the season with a convincing 1-0 victory over Watford as the Hornets hardly provided any kind of threat at Old Trafford. This game had little importance in the overall perspective as United had already secured the second position and Watford had confirmed their Premier League status for next season. Here, we discuss the five talking points from this match.
- ‘Tony Martial came from France….Really?
Anthony Martial is running a pretty delicate situation at Manchester United currently. The forward is facing stiff competition from the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku to gain a regular starting berth in the team.
In all fairness, Anthony needs to upgrade his attitude and show some greater commitment on the field to convince the manager to hand him a place in the team. Sanchez showed what United lacked sans him in the big matches against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Martial failed to turn up in the matches against AFC Bournemouth and Brighton and subsequently lost his place to Sanchez in the left-wing. Now, against Watford, Jose had confirmed that Rashford and Martial would start the game. However, the Frenchman was missing from the squad due to a knee injury that he suffered on Friday.
This puts his chances of making to the squad for the FA Cup final against Chelsea in doubt and this would add up to his already disappointing second half of the season.
Whether or not Martial ends up at Old Trafford next season is doubtful, but he only has him and his lacklustre attitude on the pitch to blame for it. Jose, most definitely wants him to stay and fight for the place and will not force him out of the club anyway. However, his absence against Watford has further fuelled the speculations.
- Watford’s disappointing end to a promising looking season:
Watford has started off the season in a brilliant fashion, as they were sturdy against eh big teams and swept off the lower-ranked clubs quite easily. Marco Silva’s charming demeanour coupled with his tactical nous had helped the team to show tremendous character in some matches. However, a certain disappointing incident almost midway through the season hampered their progress altogether.
Everton had sacked Ronald Koeman after their dismal first few months and were in search of a new manager. They obviously turned their heads to Silva, who actually was the most promising young manager in the league at that point in time.
Unethically tapping a rival manager can have lasting effects and hence Watford instantly became unsettled after that. It could be said that Marco was disturbed due to these occurrences, and it reflected in team’s performance too. Richarlison, who had endured an excellent first few months, faded away in the subsequent weeks and his end-product has deteriorated too.
Eventually, Silva was sacked shortly afterwards, and Watford indirectly blamed Everton’s interest in him as a reason for the team’s sudden slump in form. He was replaced by Javi Gracia and the new manager steadily managed the ship. However, one could only wonder what Watford could have achieved had they been able to maintain a certain consistency in their performances.
- Marcus Rashford’s partial harmony:
Romelu Lukaku’s absence in the last few weeks has provided a good chance for Marcus Rashford to demonstrate his talents while playing up front. The Mancunian lad has always been seen as a striker who can play as a winger and not the other way round.
His searing pace helps him run behind the defenders and hence he ends up creating at least a couple of chances for his himself. Against Watford, Rashford was lively yet again and was at the centre of every attacking move. He occasionally dropped down a line or moved out wide in order to create goal-scoring opportunities too.
However, his lack of composure in front of the goal was disappointing and hence he squandered many opportunities too. Rashford held on to the ball for longer than required and was unable to make quick decisions. Sanchez was regularly trying to tee him up to link up near and inside the box but Rashford usually was driven out wide by the defenders and that was a frustrating sign for major parts of the game.
However, he scored the only goal of the match too when Juan Mata selflessly linked him to take a shot from ten yards out. Rashford has endured a mixed campaign as some of his performances have been fascinating with the brace against Liverpool at Old Trafford being his best outing so far.
The lad has impressed the manager with his attitude on the field, and Rashford needs to take up his chances more consistently as of now.
- Watford’s attacking tooth vs Eric Bailly:
Gerrard Deulofeu and Richarlison started on the flanks for Watford and hence they gradually tried to cut in from the flanks to create some opportunities. However, Eric Bailly started for Manchester United and again demonstrated why he is the best defender in the squad when fit.
Between the 60th to 80th minute, Watford were threatening on the counter-attack and regularly appeared to breach United’s defence too. Bailly’s resilience helped United bailout of testing situations constantly.
The Ivorian is a mixture of steel and silk, and there were numerous occasions in which it was clearly visible. He intercepted the ball at crucial positions, was strong in the air and was dynamic with the ball at his feet. Bailly got back to his positions when Watford struck on the counter and cleared the ball accurately.
Watford have always been positive in attack, but Bailly was at the heart of the defence and accordingly neutralized their attacking threat with his astute reading of the game. If fit, then Bailly can prompt Jose to let him start against Chelsea at Wembley next weekend.
- Michael Carrick: Hard to believe he’s not Scholes
When Carrick made his way to the centre of the ground to deliver his farewell speech, it was undoubtedly the end of the playing career of probably the most underrated midfielder of our times. Carrick has long been an inspirational figure in the Manchester United dugout, and this match was all about him as the players were determined to give a fitting farewell to their captain.
After being handed his first start in the Premier League for this season, Carrick did not disappoint and clearly demonstrated what the United midfield lacks in abundance. It is the control from the midfield, the ability to maintain a certain tempo in the game, to provide those accurate chipping passes from the long range.
Carrick made an absolute peach of the ball to Rashford in the first minute itself, and the captain was constantly the one who started and created attacking moves with his assured presence on the ball. His composure in the middle of the park was so important for keeping United in the front foot regularly.
The peak point was when he carved open the Watford defence by launching an excellent, well-timed long ball to Juan Mata, who then teed up Rashford for the only goal of the match.
The captain will stay in the dressing room even now, albeit in a different role. It is very smart of Jose to keep Carrick intact with the club, as the player-turned-coach will help bridge the gap between the young lads and the manager.
Carrick has been a dutiful servant of the club, and his service will be needed even more now. However, the match against the Hornets was all about the classy, underrated genius of Michael Carrick!