Manchester United lost their second successive Premier League game and third in all competitions in the space of the week as Watford ran out 3-1 winners at Vicarage Road on Sunday Lunchtime. That defeat sees United already 6 points behind their cross town rivals Manchester City and it was the first time since Jose Mourinho was in charge of FC Porto that he has lost three consecutive matches.
It’s been a week to forget for United but on the balance of play you can’t say that Watford didn’t deserve their win. That win was the first at Vicarage Road for Walter Mazzari as he side have now picked up back to back victories in the league.
Let’s now have a look at the three key areas that led to Watford recording their first win over United in 30 years
United couldn’t deal with the aerial threat
United’s defence had a long and somewhat torrid afternoon as they struggled to deal with the aerial threat that Watford had. Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling were short of their best and had it not been for David De Gea’s acrobatics then the scoreline could have been even worse for Jose Mourinho’s side.
They had a very early let off when Smalling and De Gea collided that collision gave Odion Ighalo a perfect opportunity to open the scoring but he somehow shanked his effort wide with the goal gaping. A scare for United but not one that they learnt from.
Especially in the first half they were under constant bombardment from high balls. Sebastien Prodl and Troy Deeney both went close for The Hornets. Deeney called upon De Gea to be at his very best and the Spaniard needed a strong hand to keep out Deeney’s powerful header
The aerial threat was the biggest nuisance but they actually got undone by not tracking the runs from deep in midfield. Etienne Capoue’s opener was symptomatic of this. Watford just had more desire and they were rewarded for all their grit and determination throughout the afternoon.
Mourinho getting his tactics wrong
After going with a 4-3-3 in the defeat to Feyenoord in the Europa League, Mourinho opted to start with this setup again only with a different set of midfield personnel. This formation was chosen to bring the best out of Paul Pogba but in doing that it sacrificed the talent of Wayne Rooney.
It seems quite apparent that Rooney and Pogba can play in the same lineup but in doing so you deprive one of them of being able to fully influence the game. With a midfield three of Rooney, Fellaini and Pogba. Rooney had to take up the right side of centre midfield and was largely ineffectual.
That said if it was a move to get the best out of Pogba he offered very little either as he still looks for his first real positive contribution since returning to Old Trafford. Once United reverted to a 4-2-3-1 with Rooney playing in the number 10 role they looked more dangerous but again The Red Devils started a game slowly and left themselves playing catch up.
United have failed to score in the first half of a Premier League game in their last three attempts, they need to be getting a foothold on games much quicker if they are to come away with all three points.
Walter Mazzari’s super substitutions
Watford manager Walter Mazzari may have had to make an enforced second half change then Daryl Janmaat came off injured but the Italian’s two other substitutions were absolutely flawless and the kind that earn your money as a Premier League manager.
Etienne Capoue was bought off for Juan Zuniga with the move set to be a defensive one as United started to finally edge themselves into the game but Zuniga’s contribution couldn’t have been better. Just a minute after coming on he had the found the net in a similar way to how Capoue did in the first half. A move that was designed to make sure a point was earned had now turned into a large possibility of being three.
And the afternoon would prove even better for Mazzari and Watford as his third and final substitution played a large part in making sure Watford secured all three points. With Issac Success coming on for compatriot Ighalo he harassed Eric Bailly late on and edged his way into the box, by the time his pass had found fellow sub Zuniga then Maroune Fellaini had already wiped out the former Napoli man.
All that was left to do was for Captain Troy Deeney to thump home the awarded spot kick and the party had well and truly began at Vicarage Road. Mazzari not only got his substitutions right but the 3-5-2 formation was crucial as it gave Watford additional men to go up against an already dysfunctional United midfield. The Watford boss got his tactics spot on and when you do that it doesn’t matter who you go up against you always give yourself half a chance of a win.
A fantastic result for Watford and an afternoon to forget for United.