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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

United Player Ratings: Watford vs Manchester United

After learning a tough lesson against City last weekend, United did not manage to get many fans back onside midweek with a very poor performance against Feyenoord. The successive defeats have brought the supporters expectations back down to earth. With a trip to Vicarage Road upcoming, Mourinho needed to turn events around to prove that Manchester United were title contenders.

Watford are a very different team under Walter Mazzarri this season. The very Italian 3-4-1-2 formation seems to suit the Premier League, judging from their early performances in the domestic campaign. Despite losses to Arsenal and Chelsea, Watford have impressed thus far and showed their firepower in the previous round of fixtures when they came back from 2-0 down against West Ham to win 4-2 at the Olympic Stadium.

Unfortunately, United failed to turn around their fortunes, losing a third successive game for the first time since last year, and Mourinho’s third successive loss for the first time in 14 years. Yet again, it was the Reds’ midfield which let them down. The Fellaini, Pogba and Rooney combination is not working and Mourinho may want to take inspiration from the way Pereyra, Behrami and Capoue ran the show at Vicarage Road.

United were caught napping in the first half to allow a completely unmarked Capoue to open the scoring. Rashford managed to hit back in the second half when the Reds had upped the tempo, however, the momentum did not last and late goals from Zuniga and Deeney on the break sealed all three points for the Hornets.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Player Ratings

De Gea: 5

As a goalkeeper, you are never going to get a great rating when you concede three goals. Could not be blamed for Zuniga or Deeney’s goals but probably would have had a better chance of saving Capoue’s shot if he had used his hands instead of his feet.

The Spaniard has made a name for himself when it comes to shot stopping with his feet. Against Watford, however, the drawbacks of that style were clear to see with the opener. Made a Bravo-esque howler in the 12th minute when he collided with Smalling and gifted Ighalo an open goal, only for the Nigerian to steer it the wrong side of the post. Did make a fantastic save from Deeney’s header in the 16th minute but all in all the Spaniard is not going to look back on this fixture with fond memories.

Valencia: 6

Along with his fullback partner, one of the most solid performers in red. Managed to keep Holebas reasonably quiet on the left and was often a useful outlet when pushing up the pitch. His crosses, however, almost all hit the first man in a regression to how he played under Moyes and Van Gaal. He was beaten far too easily by Deeney in the first half for the Englishman’s effort on goal but managed to hold his head reasonably high in comparison with his teammates.

Bailly: 5

Had a game way below the par of his performances so far this season. One would have thought that Bailly’s immense speed and physicality would have been a valuable asset against a very tough Watford team, however, the Ivorian was not his domineering self. Only won one out of three attempted tackles and won zero aerial duels which is poor considering that Deeney won five, most of which would have been against the United defender.

Smalling: 5

Terrible communication with De Gea to gift Ighalo a chance in the first half. Did not look up to match speed nor did he command the game from the back like he did during his best spells last season. Did win more aerial duels than anyone else on the pitch (6) but his positioning was not overly impressive in his battles against Deeney. Was caught in no-man’s-land for Capoue’s opener.

Shaw: 6

Made some fantastic tackles in the first half and completely nullified Janmaat’s threat. Would be harsh to blame him for the opener, even though it came from the position he should have been occupying. Amrabat tried to take on Shaw in a foot race in the 55th minute and made a bit of a fool of himself (the Moroccan is no slouch either). Made positive runs forwards but failed to link up with Martial or Rashford effectively.

Fellaini: 4

The Fellaini who Mourinho is trying to market to the fans clearly did not exist against Watford. While his physicality can be useful, he was caught out in the previous Premier League round of fixtures by City’s much more technical players. Here, against Watford, Fellaini was torn apart again. His role as the anchor is to pick up the late midfield runs into the box and cut passing lanes; both Watford’s second and third goals were scored in this fashion. The Belgian also fouled Zuniga in the 93rd minute to give away a penalty and compile the misery of his performance.

Pogba: 5

Had a fantastic effort from range in the first half which came off the bar. Other than that, he seems a different player than the world record signing who made his debut against Southampton. Made zero dribbles (arguably his strongest quality) and only had a pass accuracy of 75%. Pogba is failing to make his presence known in games. Whether Mourinho needs to build the team around Pogba to coax positive performances out is for future analysis.

Rashford: 7

A constant shining light in United’s dire week. Worked tirelessly and his direct running from the wings was the most consistent attacking threat which United posed. Fluffed a good opportunity to equalise at the end of the first half but made up for that with an instinctive finish to bring the scores level. His link up play with Ibrahimović before the goal was especially pleasing and encouraging. A bright star in a very dark night sky.

Rooney: 4

Very wasteful with the ball, which most United fans are not surprised to see now. Mourinho attempted to play the skipper in both a number 10 and number 8 role. Rooney, unfortunately, did not play either role and was lost on the pitch. His positional indiscipline was the reason why Fellaini was so out matched in midfield. Rooney got more involved in the game during the second half, however, his involvement seemed to slow United’s attacking movement and his end product was often wayward.

Martial: 5

The Frenchman looks a shadow of the player he was last season. While he used to glide past fullbacks with ease

@Wikimedia Commons

@Wikimedia Commons

(in a similar fashion to how Rashford does now) his confidence has taken a battering and there have not been many signs of a renovation. The Frenchman was involved in a clash of heads early on in the game which presumably had an impact on his concentration. Minutes later, Martial dribbled into two Watford players on the edge of his own area which led to the opening goal. While he may have been fouled, the Frenchman was taking unnecessary risks which may have been the consequence of potential concussion.

Ibrahimović: 6

A better game from the forward, however, still far from his scintillating best. Missed a good half-chance in the first half which would have opened the scoring. The big Swede grew in the game as the game grew old, getting much more of the ball in the second half. He forced Gomes into a brilliant save in the 78th minute from a header out of nothing, on another day he would have scored. Still looks somewhat quiet and subdued in comparison to the audacious Ibrahimović at AC Milan and PSG. Perhaps even the biggest personalities need bedding in.

 

Subs

Young: 5

Came on for the injured Martial in the 38th minute and failed to have the manager’s desired impact. Was not penetrative enough when playing on the right wing and did not look very comfortable when he was moved to right back in place of Valencia. Hard to see that 31 year old will be a regular in the team given the competition in his position and his age.

Mata: 6

Looked positive when he came off the bench to replace Valencia. The real problem with United’s attacking play was their lack of creativity, something which the introduction of Mata earlier in the game may have changed. Looked the most likely to carve something out but it was too little too late for the small Spaniard.

Memphis: N/A

Came on for the final few minutes but failed to make any significant impact. Still looks like a player well off his much appreciated potential. More Europa League appearances are likely to be on the cards before the Dutchman makes any serious dent in the first team.

Tags: bailly, Fellaini, ibrahimovic, Martial, Mourinho, MUFC, pogba, Rashford, Rooney

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