There was plenty to revel in for Manchester United fans in an excellent 3-0 win at Old Trafford. Watford were dispatched easily in the second half after a slight scare for United when Troy Deeney stuck the ball past De Gea. The goal was disallowed for handball and allowed United to kick on and take the three points.
Here is a look at five things we learned from an eventually comfortable win…
Fernandes gives United everything which has been missing
It took a while for United to pay up for the Portuguese midfielder. He’s now delivering everything they could have wished for.
Fernandes is a midfield force who offers creativity, a subtle hint of aggression paired with a similarly subtle influence of brilliant movement. He netted from the penalty spot after winning the foul himself before half-time.
Even before that point, Fernandes had run the game for United. He maintains the tempo of games in a way that no other United midfielder has managed to do in recent years.
The way in which he converted his penalty showed confidence and an element of showmanship, something which always goes down well with the Old Trafford crowd if it’s matched by quality and impact.
Three consecutive United cleansheets show defensive improvement
With three goals at the other end, United’s defence were keen to keep a cleansheet as the game petered out. They managed it and now have three consecutive cleansheets in the Premier League. It’s the first time they’ve managed two back-to-back cleansheets at home in the league for two years.
It’s a credit to an improved defence. The full-backs are developing well and Solskjaer has moved from a three-man (or five-man) defence to a four-man set-up across games and within them, too.
It’s working well and the Reds have a couple of options in there. Over those three games, fans have seen Maguire, Bailly, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka, Shaw and Williams. It’s not just about the players but the organisation is clearly working too.
That being said, this was the second successive league game where United have benefitted from a VAR decision to keep it clean at the back.
Star finisher Greenwood reaches five league goals against Watford
Greenwood was United’s starboy earlier on this season, particular in December. He hasn’t had quite the same impact in the last few weeks but his finish against Watford was emphatic.
It’s become a trademark Greenwood finish. The power he generates is astonishing and, when this particular goal smashed in off the crossbar, incredibly satisfying to watch.
It’s the Englishman’s 11th goal of the season in all competitions and fifth in the league. Greenwood has a fantastic ability to match the situation. We’ve seen him finish from a tight angle, with composure when under pressure, smash it home with great power and curl it into the top corner.
He’s cool and calm. His ability allows him to do whatever is necessary and that’s what he did again on Sunday afternoon.
Wan-Bissaka and Shaw continue to show improvement
Wan-Bissaka made headlines with an assist for Anthony Martial in last Monday’s 2-0 win against Chelsea. The English full-back is gradually adding more to his attacking game.
In the 14th minute, he controlled a floated Fernandes pass, invited his opponent to tackle and quickly dashed past him before a decent cross. It was one of a few occasions.
Shaw, meanwhile, has excelled in a more central role. This was the first time in a while that Solskjaer began with a four-man defence in the league and used only one of Shaw and Williams.
It’s Shaw’s defensive contributions that are making it hard for Williams to take his spot as the youngster did earlier this season. Shaw saved the blushes of Maguire and Matic in the third minute as they conspired to gift the ball to Deeney. On a number of occasions, he covered for the centre-backs and constantly read the game well.
United have some options off the bench again
Odion Ighalo, Scott McTominay and Tahith Chong arrived on the pitch for United with 15 minutes remaining. The trio showed that United are beginning to have some options off the bench again. There’s no doubt that more is still needed.
But Ighalo offers something different up front and has shown that at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford now, as well as in Bruges. McTominay’s return is a massive boost and there are now four fully-fit capable midfielders at the club.
Diogo Dalot has come back recently and Eric Bailly too. It could end very quickly, but Solskjaer is beginning to have a decent squad to pick his starting line-up from.
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