Three Things We Learnt From Watford's 3-1 Win Over Manchester United

Manchester United were condemned to their third defeat in eight days, going to down 3-1 to an industrious Watford side at Vicarage Road. Etienne Capoue’s fourth league goal of the season gave the Hornets a deserved half-time lead, before Marcus Rashford levelled just after the hour mark. It looked as if Jose Mourinho’s side would turn the screw, but it was the home side who landed a knockout blow in the 83rd minute when substitute Camilo Zuniga scored with his first touch of the game. Troy Deeney’s late penalty added gloss to the score-line, and completed a bitterly disappointing afternoon for the Red Devils.

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Few will argue that United deserved anything more from this game, despite Paul Pogba hitting the bar and Zlatan Ibrahimovic also going close on two occasions. They appear to lack structure and rhythm, and throughout the first half Watford beat them to the second ball.

Following defeats against Manchester City and Feyenoord, Mourinho has plenty to ponder as they try to get their season back on track. It is far too early for talk of a ‘crisis’, but United are an example of how volatile football opinion can be. A matter of weeks ago they were being described as ‘ominous’, but now find themselves under pressure.

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Over the next few pages, we have suggested three things we learnt from Watford’s first win over United for 30 years.

Prodl and Cathcart Enjoy A Physical Battle


Watford’s last home game was a chastening experience as they found themselves 3-0 down at half time to Arsenal. Watford’s three centre-backs were run ragged that day by the speed and fluidity of Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Hornet’s 3-4-1-2 system is vulnerable to good movement in the channels, and much depends on ensuring the centre-halves are not exposed in one against one situations. Walter Mazzarri changed to a flat back four during that game, and Watford improved.

Against United however, they faced a far more static threat in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Craig Cathcart and Sebastien Prodl relished the physical battle against the Swede, with Prodl picking up the man of the match award. One last ditch challenge on Ibrahimovic in the first half summed up his display. The Austrian was solid in the air and on the deck, ably assisted by Cathcart and Miguel Britos.

Ibrahimovic is the type of forward they will enjoy playing against; they could see his shirt number for most of the game and they flourished in this direct confrontation. United needed to use the wide areas more productively and take advantage of the numerical advantage they had on the flanks due to Watford’s narrow midfield.

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