Two late goals turned a dreadful result into a total horror show…. For all the admirable loyalty to a legend, Manchester United are not supposed to fall into dissaray at places like Watford
- Manchester United’s defeat to Watford led to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure
- Two late goals led to United losing 4-1 as the game turned into a horror show
- Evolution has been staggeringly slow for a club that has spent so much money
Two goals in stoppage time set the end game into overdrive for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
One scored by Joao Pedro, a shot driven low through the legs of David de Gea after Antony Martial had lost another challenge with a shrug.
The other a punt by Ben Foster, poorly defended by Nemanja Matic who ducked out of a header while deputising at centre half, and smashed in by Emmanuel Dennis.
Manchester United’s woeful performance at Watford led to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure
Two goals to encapsulate the shambles that had gone before and turn a dreadful result into a total horror show. Solskjaer was toast and he knew it. That comes with the territory.
For all the admirable loyalty to a legend, Manchester United are not supposed to fall into disarray at places like Watford any more than they supposed to be battered by arch-enemy Liverpool at Old Trafford or yield quite so readily to the clear superiority of neighbours Manchester City.
So Solskjaer is out and now what? Will we see a bounce from happier players and a flicker of better times ahead before the familiar problems reappear, as another man tries to improve the defence while satisfying United’s demand for flair?
Two late goals, including one from Joao Pedro, meant that it was a horror show for United
This elusive balance, so tantalisingly close at times under Solskjaer, as it was at times under Jose Mourinho, has disappeared again.
Watford, on Saturday, was an extreme example.
United were soft in the middle, where Scott McTominay and Matic never got to grips with the trio of Moussa Sissoko, Tom Cleverley and Imran Louza.
There was little by way of help from the front four. When Bruno Fernandes ventured back to defend, early in the game, his miscued volley landed his back four in trouble and led to a penalty, twice taken by Ismaila Sarr and twice saved by De Gea, which set the tone for the contest. Watford performed with more aggression and urgency, conscious of the fragile confidence of their opponents.
Their goalkeeper, Foster, in a prescient pre-match interview, said there were two or three teams ‘you would genuinely worry about’ in the Premier League and, despite their quality, United were not one of them.
Claudio Ranieri, beaten 5-0 at home by Liverpool on his first game in charge, knew this would be different because his team would get at United’s defence and cause them problems with the pace and energy of Sarr, Josh King and Dennis. To get at Liverpool’s defence, you have to survive the frantic counter-press of Jurgen Klopp’s attacking players. To get at Manchester City’s defence, you have to take the ball from them, which is more than half the battle, then survive the same frantic counter-press.
Chelsea’s defence is the meanest of all, brilliantly organised and protected by the commitment of those in front of the back three. They have conceded only four goals in a dozen Premier League games, two of them penalties. United have let in 21. Only Newcastle and Norwich have let in more.
United need a clear change of strategy and a coach who knows how he wants his team to play
There was more fluency and cohesion when Donny van de Beek came into the midfield at half-time but less protection for those at the back. Ranieri’s team had 20 efforts on goal.
Harry Maguire, who produced several last-ditch interventions as Watford threatened to score with every attack, picked up his first yellow card trying to halt another Sarr run into the box.
His second yellow, a consequence of his baffling decision to dribble out of defence past Cleverley, makes him an easy target. United were in the game at 2-1 and nobody was betting against Cristiano Ronaldo somehow conjuring another late goal but a scrambled point would only have masked the problems and delayed the inevitable.
The need for change has been clear for some time, certainly since the Liverpool defeat. United need a different strategy, they need a coach who knows the way he wants to play, who can play something akin to the United way. And they must support him by recruiting players and staff to help him do that well, to restore balance and defensive foundation.
United need to support the new manager by recruiting players and staff to help him