Six things we learned as Manchester United lose 4-1 to Watford

Manchester United’s awful run of form and performances continued with a 4-1 defeat to Watford.

Here is a look at six things we learned from another hugely disappointing result…

Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Solskjaer ditches the back five

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used a back five after the defeat to Liverpool as he scrambled to save his job.

That system was ripped apart by Manchester City so he went back to the more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation here.


In a game United were expected to dominate, the change did not have the desired effect and the performance was again not good enough.

Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Another slow start

United came into this game knowing they needed a big performance, with their manager under huge pressure.

That did not translate into a fast start as United were again sluggish when coming out of the blocks.

Scott McTominay was a particular culprit before he was substituted at half-time, and gave away a penalty which could have put United behind sooner.

Slow starts have been a problem which have plagued United all season and it was the same story here.

Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

De Gea stands out again

United were indebted to de Gea for saving from the penalty spot – twice.

Once again, he was the only player to stand out for a positive reason and he recovered well from his error in the derby last time around.

He made an impressive save in stoppage time, but it ultimately proved futile as Watford made the game safe seconds later.

This has been an abject period for United but there are plenty of times it could have got even worse if not for de Gea.

Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Delayed reaction

United had two weeks to get their act together during the international break and we have already mentioned how bad the start was after that.

But when United got away with the penalty scare, did they show a reaction or a desire to improve and make the most of the let-off?

There were no signs of it in the first half, with the same lack of tempo and urgency in their game until Watford eventually found their shooting boots.

It took until the second half for United to rouse themselves and put in a performance of the right level, but even then it was too little too late, and the team fell apart in the closing minutes anyway.

IAN KINGTON/AFP via Getty Images

Van de Beek takes his chance

With United trailing 2-0 at half-time, Solskjaer turned to Donny van de Beek, who had only played 15 minutes of Premier League football this season before that.

Within minutes, the Dutchman had taken his long overdue chance, heading home to halve the deficit with a header.

The finish itself was simple but he had to get himself in position to score, and in doing so, showed an eye for goal and an urgency which was lacking throughout the first half.

On 57 minutes, he played a great incisive pass through to Cristiano Ronaldo, who saw his shot saved by Ben Foster.

Minutes later, he thundered into a tackle, which is not something which would typically be associated with him but it underlined his desire to take his chance and improve United’s overall performance.

Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Maguire’s awful club form continues

Maguire scored in both of England’s games during the international break and it was hoped that would boost his confidence.

That did not prove to be the case and he was dismissed here for two bookable offences.

For the second one, he dallied on the ball then took a poor touch before ploughing into Tom Cleverley and was deservedly dismissed.

Maguire’s celebration against Albania drew its fair share of criticism and the critics will not be any quieter after a poor club season arguably reached its nadir here.

Thoughts? Comment Below
LOGIN to Comment
LOGIN to Comment
Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.