Five things learned as Manchester United beat Watford 1-0

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will take Manchester United into the FA Cup Fourth Round thanks to Scott McTominay. The Scottish midfielder headed the Reds in front early on and they held on to beat Watford 1-0.

It was an uninspiring but important victory after United’s midweek defeat in the EFL Cup semi-final against rivals Manchester City.

United make hard work of it despite early goal

When Scott McTominay headed home for United after only five minutes, optimistic United fans will have hoped for the Reds to quickly take the game away from Watford. Instead, moments of quality inspired United’s victory, rather than sustained pressure of Watford’s goal. In truth, it was a dull affair; typical of an FA Cup meeting between a Premier League and Sky Bet Championship side – too close in quality for the big team to run away with it; not close enough to ensure full drive and desire from them either.

Set piece creativity from Manchester United

United converted their first set piece of the game, thus combining two things that the Reds aren’t normally good at: scoring early and scoring from corners. McTominay’s movement at that particular set piece was good. It was the first signs of a game in which United tried three or four distinct corner routines, all of them creating good chances. More of that, please.

Success with homegrown team

Manchester United started (and played the full game) with six academy graduates in the side, and that didn’t include Marcus Rashford nor Paul Pogba from the start.

Manchester United’s six homegrown players against Watford: Dean Henderson, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay, Jesse Lingard, Mason Greenwood.

It’s a credit to the coaches within the club’s academy set-up.

Henderson had a slightly erratic night. He pulled off a couple of fine saves and didn’t make a mistake; it’s simply the manner he went about his work that caused some nerves.

Photo by OLI SCARFF/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Greenwood wasn’t at his best, drifting wide constantly rather than holding his central position. Williams, too, isn’t at his best. Both need a confidence boost. Though Greenwood was sub-par, taking him off was a strange decision. He had little quality service and another 20 minutes to find his shooting boots could have done him good. Fans will have to be patient with Greenwood.

Tuanzebe was as solid as ever; the same can be said for McTominay.

Another advert for Bruno Fernandes

Solskjaer was right not to start Fernandes. It’s perhaps a surprise it’s taken so long for the Portuguese to get a rest. But in his absence, he still impressed. United are so reliant on Fernandes. Without him, they miss not only his quality but his drive and leadership qualities.

Concussion subs can’t come soon enough

United’s doctors had to take Eric Bailly off. He wanted to stay on – and understandably so. It’s yet another set back at a time when Bailly has been in excellent form. The real point, though, is that it shows the need for further action on concussion in football. “Concussion subs” will come in soon, and some expected them to be trialled in this round of the FA Cup.

When they do, it will be a good day for the game. Risks simply cannot be taken.

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Life-long Manchester United fan with a strong interest in the club's academy. Host of the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. First game at Old Trafford was the 7-1 rout of AS Roma in 2007.