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Manchester United 3-0 Watford: Three things we learned

Reasons for optimism

Manchester United v Watford FC - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Manchester United cruised into fifth place in the Premier League Sunday afternoon after a comfortable win against Watford at Old Trafford. January signing Bruno Fernandes opened his scoring account with a penalty kick in the first half and goals from Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood solidified all three points for the Reds.

Guilty of bottling their chances of creeping into top-four consideration in the past, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are now just three points away from overtaking Chelsea for the coveted fourth place spot. Here are three things we learned from United’s 3-0 victory against Watford.

Fernandes is right at home

Bruno Fernandes plays as if he’s been in a United shirt for years. The Portuguese is fun to watch, incredible on the attack and can successfully execute passes that result in goals. It didn’t take long for the 25-year-old to officially nab his first goal at Old Trafford, and it certainly won’t be his last of the year. He exudes confidence on the pitch, and leaves defenses wondering how to stop such a threatening force. He was even the player responsible for winning the spot kick, after keeper Ben Foster tackled him inside the penalty box as he was going for goal.

Even when United were playing boring football in the first half, the former Sporting star was still brilliant. At times he could be seen dropping deeper while instructing his teammates to move forward and consistently dribbled with authority regardless of whether he was entering dangerous territory. To say he’s been an instant impact is understatement. If this is how United will manage should Paul Pogba ultimately leave this summer, it’s not a bad settlement.

Williams competition bringing out the best in Shaw

Since his arrival in 2014, Luke Shaw hasn’t faced much competition for the left-back role. In his absence, Ashley Young would often assume responsibilities of that position. In the last several months, however, the 24-year-old has faced increased competition from teenager Brandon Williams, and it’s quite obvious who the majority of supporters have been siding with.

Surely noticing his position is under threat, it’s brought out some better recent performances from Shaw, and Sunday was no exception. Shaw looked fitter, made important challenges and notably, has started making forward runs. He was class up until the final whistle and it’s refreshing to finally have two skilled players at a position so desperately needing consistency.

Cause for end of season optimism

Sunday’s contest wasn’t United’s finest performance this campaign, but it was enough to climb into fifth place and closer to a Champions League spot — showing that playing good football isn’t always a necessity. There’s not much United (or any club, really) can do to stop runaway domestic champions Liverpool at this point, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t cause for optimism for the rest of the season. The Reds are now only 3 points back of a Champions League qualifying place.

Furthermore, despite walking away from their Europa League knockout stage round against Club Brugge with a draw, United are in full control of their fate entering Thursday’s rematch. If all goes according to plan, supporters at the Theatre of Dreams will be singing their praises even louder than they were Sunday.

United are still in contention to win the Europa League or FA Cup at the end of the year. After a poor run of matches at the beginning of the season, the likelihood that either would be lifted by a member of this team was slim. With just how well the defense is improving and the presence of adequate options on the bench again, United could very well be hoisting one or even both trophies several months from now.