Match Report: Watford 2-0 Man Utd
By Kevin Affleck
Christmas dinner will taste a bit nicer for everyone associated with this club after Manchester United were toppled at Vicarage Road on a thrilling afternoon that was long, long overdue.
It's important no-one gets carried away by this win – the first at home since April, would you believe it – and thinks everything has been solved as there is a heck of a lot of work to do, but boy did it feel good and boy has it fuelled belief and given hope that there is a way out of this difficult spot. It was just what everybody needed. Wins over Manchester United are not easily achieved – the Red Devils have won 11 of the previous 12 meetings – but this was fully deserved and should be celebrated.
There was a conviction about the performance, a togetherness and a spirit that bodes so well for the big job at hand. These sort of characteristics haven't been lacking: it's just the team has been painfully lacking in confidence. That all changed when Ismäila Sarr rattled one in on 50 minutes. The mood changed, the depression lifted and the team look revitalised. What a difference a goal makes.
With confidence flowing the veins through the veins like the water in the River Chess at this time of year, a second goal arrived two minutes later from Troy Deeney and there is nothing like a goal from the captain, particularly a nerveless penalty, to ignite this place. All of a sudden, we had lift off.
You had Gerad Deulofeu smashing one into the stands after flying into a challenge with Juan Mata; the excellent Hughes tackling back in his own area to deny Anthony Martial and then Troy Deeney and Hughes doubling up to get under the skin of Harry Maguire. The fans loved it and fully played their part. The Deeney chant was in full cry, the Abdoulaye Doucouré one made a welcome return and that classic by Depeche Mode, 'Just Can't Get Enough', was sung from the rafters. This felt good, so good.
The early exchanges gave no real sign of the scenes that followed. There was precious little to get excited about in the first half. There wasn't even a shot on target. Martial scuffed one wide and Jesse Lingard lifted one over the bar when clean through, but that was about it.
There was no lack of effort. Doucouré hounded Fred for most of the half, the superb Adrian Mariappa thundered into two tackles in quick succession on the Brazilian and made an an excellent interception on Marcus Rashford while Will Hughes was waspish, breaking up play, being a nuisance in the engine room and linking attacks with that lovely left foot of his.
Hughes is revelling in that deeper midfield role as it suits his action style. He was at the heart of everything the team did well and it was fitting it was his free-kick that led to Sarr hooking in the opener. Yes, there was mistake by David De Gea but who cares? It's about time this team had a bit of luck.
Deeney then cracked in the second from the spot after Aaron Wan-Bissaka felled Deulofeu. The roof almost came off with that one and the whole place was transformed.
There were still one or two anxious moments after that. Foster had to make a fine save from Paul Pogba, Craig Cathcart hooked one of the line, Mason Greenwood lobbed one over the bar and then Foster saved with his foot from Greenwood. There was a bit of good fortune involved but it's been long overdue and no-one could begrudge this luckless team this one. It was fully deserved. Now the challenge is to back it up. Merry Christmas!
HORNETS: Foster; Mariappa, Cathcart, Kabasele, Femenía; Capoue (Pereyra 77), Hughes, Doucourè (Chalobah 69); Sarr (Success 87), Deeney, Deulofeu.
Subs: Gomes, Masina, Gray and Dawson not used.