Three talking points as Manchester United beat Watford in an enthralling encounter

Manchester United continued their pursuit of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table as Ashley Young’s stunning double was enough to see off a spirited Watford on Tuesday night.

Going into the clash at Vicarage Road eight points behind their rivals, Jose Mourinho’s side took an early lead when Young – returning to his former side – thumped in a drive from the edge of the area.

Six minutes later the 32-year-old curled in a superb free-kick from 25-yards out before Anthony Martial’s clinical low finish gave the visitors a commanding three-goal lead with just 32 minutes played.

Watford were awarded a glimmer of hope with ten minutes to go when Marcos Rojo, making his Premier League return, hauled down Roberto Pereyra inside the box and Troy Deeney dispatched the penalty.

The most unlikely of comebacks was on when Abdoulaye Doucoure stroked home a second on the 84th minute, only for Jesse Lingard to go straight up the other end and scored a sensational solo effort.

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The result sees Mourinho’s men close the gap on City to five points – at least until they play Southampton on Wednesday night – whilst Watford remain four points outside of the top four.

Watford come close to remarkable comeback

It’s not often that a team will be 3-0 down inside the opening half an hour, go on to concede four goals at home in the league yet still leave the pitch with their heads held high and their pride intact.

However, Marco Silva’s side will certainly be the exception to that after last night’s display, coming desperately close to pulling off one of the Premier League’s most remarkable comebacks ever.

Even when they went three goals down their heads didn’t drop; this wasn’t a case of Watford being outplayed by their opponents, it was more a case of United being clinical with the chances they had.

The Hornets didn’t change the way they applied themselves on the pitch, still looking to use Richarlison’s pace and trickery and get into the box, and when Doucoure turned home with six minutes still to play the rapturous response from the crowd sensed there was a point in the offing.

Whilst it might not have transpired like that, with Watford’s leaky defence proving costly once more this season, it was a vastly improved display from the 6-0 home humiliation against leaders Manchester City and Silva can take heart from the way his side battled against Jose Mourinho’s side.

Mixed feelings for Mourinho after breath-taking match

For all of 80 minutes it seemed like Manchester United were coasting to another victory in a match that would have been labelled prior to kick-off as the first tricky game of a testing period of winter fixtures.

The visitors showed a clinical edge in the final third, scoring their three goals with their first three chances of the match, and they could easily have put the game even further out of sight before Deeney’s penalty considering that Romelu Lukaku spurned two glorious chances to add to the lead.

Despite Watford’s late show of resolve, there were plenty of positives for manager Jose Mourinho to build on, not least the showing of Anthony Martial in a more advanced striking role.

Partnering Lukaku the Frenchman showed that he is a man playing with a vast amount of belief in himself and Watford could barely contain him, with his runs in-behind causing numerous problems.

His well-taken goal means that he’s now scored eight goals in all competitions this season (from 20 appearances), already equalling his tally from last season (from 42 games), and his ability to frequently break through the midfield and run at the defence will give Mourinho food for thought.

Yet, it was not all good news, with Nemanja Matic’s enforced withdrawal early in the second-half cause for concern with a tough trip to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal just around the corner.

Marcos Rojo’s erratic nature came to the surface once again too in his first Premier League appearance since returning from injury, needlessly coming in from behind to bring Pereyra down for Watford’s penalty, and it was this moment that nearly opened the door for Watford’s comeback.

Nonetheless, it was a night to be positive for United fans – after all, for 80 minutes they were convincing against a strong Watford side – and the Red Devils will go into Saturday’s crucial clash with confidence high.

Young and Lingard stunners light up Vicarage Road

It has been quite the season so far for Ashley Young, forcing his way back into the fold under Jose Mourinho before making the left wing-back position his own, but Tuesday was his best outing yet.

He seemed to save his very best for his former side – having spent four years at Vicarage Road as a youngster – and whilst his effort against Brighton is likely to be awarded as an own goal by the dubious goal panel there was absolutely nothing wrong with his stunning efforts this time around.

His first on the night was a firm low drive that whistled along the floor, giving Heurelho Gomes no chance, but he went one better when he whipped a sensational free-kick right into the top corner.

It is not often that a player can score a goal of that calibre but still not claim the accolade of the best goal of the evening, but Jesse Lingard will no doubt have something to say about that after his clinching effort, running 73 metres from inside his own half to top off an excellent display with a deserved goal.

The England international never really seems to be spoken about in the same manner that Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are, but he lit up Vicarage Road with dangerous runs and movement.

He was afforded far more freedom playing in a role behind the two strikers and he thrived upon it, seeing an awful lot of the ball and turning defence into attack at pace, and the athleticism and fitness he showed to maraud forward, beat countless Watford players and score should be praised.

On the night he created six chances for his teammates – one of which was the assist for Young’s opening goal – and he put in a performance that suggested he’s not just here to make up squad numbers.

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