Manchester United’s mini revival took a hammer blow after beating beaten by bottom of the table Watford 2-0.
After closing the gap on 4th place Chelsea in recent weeks, there was growing optimism that United could get themselves back in the race for Champions League football.
However, United’s shambolic record against sides below them in the table continued with a flat display at Vicarage Road.
Here are the five players that stood out for the wrong reasons against the Hornets.
David de Gea
What has happened to this man? It is heart-breaking seeing him make glaring errors, but it is becoming worrying the volume of mistakes, it is costing us points.
His confidence looks shot and he looks a shadow of his former self, the concern is that his tentativeness could radiate panic through the rest of the team.
With games coming thick and fast, there is no denying that Solskjaer wouldn’t have entertained the thought of taking De Gea out of the limelight and starting Sergio Romero over the festive period.
Since the start of last season, no player has made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than De Gea (6).
On a day when Watford lacked self-belief in front of goal, the last thing Solskjaer would have wanted was a free gift for the hosts, which got their tails up.
We have been here before with De Gea and there is no doubt he has the temperament and ability to come through this testing period.
The concern is that these uncharacteristic errors are starting to creep in on a more frequent basis.
What must Brandon Williams be thinking? Since Shaw has returned from injury, United’s academy star has fallen down the pecking order.
The 19-year-old wasn’t even selected on the bench as Solskjaer opted to go with the experienced Ashley Young.
Shaw endured a difficult afternoon and offered very little in our defensive or attacking phases of play.
As soon as he was booked for pulling back Ismaïla Sarr, Shaw’s defensive approach was to back off and give the Senegalese winger all the time he wanted.
United’s touchline were having to implore Shaw to get further up the pitch, he doesn’t seem to have the same thirst for attacking as he did when he burst on the scene with Southampton.
The constant juggling of United’s left-back position will not be helping United’s leaky backline, but with Shaw and Young already having ample previous chances, maybe it is time for Williams and Ethan Laird to share the position.
United’s midfield general endured a difficult afternoon by his usual high standards.
The young Scot seemed so eager to get the ball forward quickly to his forwards that he was rushing whilst in possession and was giving the ball away cheaply too frequently.
With Paul Pogba making his return to the side, the midfield trio of McTominay, Pogba and Fred should be looking to dominate the battle in the midfield of the park and give our talented forward line the ammunition they need to go and win games.
It is very rare that you see McTominay get taken off, but Solskjaer decided to sacrifice him for Juan Mata.
It was an off day for McTominay, but he has the desire and temperament to come back stronger.
In a first half where United struggled to create any meaningful chances, Lingard had to do better with the one-on-one chance he had.
United’s attacking midfielder tried to lift the ball over Ben Foster, but the ball landed on the top of the net.
Lingard was replaced by Pogba in the 64th minute and with the Frenchman having a positive impact, Lingard’s place in the starting line-up could be in jeopardy.
It was yet another game that just drifted by for Lingard where he had no influence or impact.
With the likes of Jack Grealish and James Maddison continuing to excel, Lingard’s ability to produce moment of magic are too few and far between.
Lingard has now gone over 25 hours since his last goal or assist in the Premier League, with his last goal involvement coming against Huddersfield on Boxing Day 2018, which was an assist.
It is an anniversary, which makes grim reading for the 27-year-old.
The Welshman’s seamless transition from Championship to Premier League football has resulted in their being a high standard expected from James’ performances week in week out.
His display against Watford was probably his least effectual outing since joining the club from Swansea.
He wasn’t getting the supply, but he didn’t go looking for the ball and demanding more service.
There were no real bursts of pace or darting runs in behind the Watford defence.
It was the type of performance, which highlighted why Solskjaer is so eager to make Jadon Sancho a United player.
James has played a lot of football for club and country in 2019 and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Solskjaer opted to rest him in the coming matches and starting Mason Greenwood in his place.
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- A closer look at Paul Pogba’s dominant performance
- Anthony Martial’s unhappy reaction as he was taken off was great to see
- Manchester United’s three best players against Aston Villa