Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign as Manchester United manager got off to a winning start on Saturday, but it wasn’t quite as emphatic as he’d have hoped. The Reds barely edged past Watford 2-1 at Old Trafford, with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial scoring in a game that United were fortunate to win.
The hosts made a shaky start, with Watford seeing the lion’s share of the early possession. Abdoulaye Doucouré might have done better when he fired wide from close-range five minutes in, while only the claws of David de Gea prevented Troy Deeney from bundling Gerard Deulofeu’s dinked cross in at the back post.
Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra both proceeded to test the United keeper before the Reds broke the deadlock against the run of play. Unsurprisingly it came on the counter-attack, and in no small part thanks to some brilliant play from Luke Shaw. Having won the ball deep in his own half, the United left-back proceeded to arrow an inch-perfect pass beyond the Watford defence for Rashford, who matched the assist with a neat chipped finish.
Martial should have doubled the hosts’ lead five minutes later, though he was denied from point-blank range by former United shot-stopper Ben Foster. With only one goal separating the two sides, United remained heavily reliant on de Gea to preserve their slender advantage, and the Spaniard made several important saves at the start of an equally sketchy second half. It wasn’t the kind of swashbuckling performance we’ve become accustomed to under Solskjær.
However, United sealed the points with a second sucker-punch in the final 20 minutes, with Martial scrambling home from close range after some smart build-play up involving substitutes Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira.
It took until the final minute of the 90, but eventually Watford did manage to score the goal their play had merited. Some intricate one-touch play in the United penalty area culminated in a goal for the impressive Doucouré, though it proved nothing more than a consolation. It wasn’t a particularly convincing performance from United, but it’s a win that could prove vital as the race for Champions League qualification hots up.