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Romelu Lukaku on target as Manchester United squeeze past Watford

Lukaku on target as United squeeze past Watford

15/09/2018 at 18:25Updated 15/09/2018 at 22:07

Premier League, Vicarage Road - Watford 1 (Gray 65') Manchester United 2 (Lukaku 35', Smalling 38')

Romelu Lukaku was on target as 10-man Manchester United ended Watford's perfect start to the Premier League season with a 2-1 win at Vicarage Road.

The Belgium international notched his fourth goal of the campaign for the Red Devils when he bundled home Ashley Young's devilish cross.

Chris Smalling then doubled the advantage with a superb chest and volleyed finish as the visitors struck twice in three first-half minutes.

The hosts were hoping to re-join Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the table, but were left grateful to Ben Foster for producing a series of fine stops to keep the scoreline down as the visitors took control.

Javi Gracia's side improved after the break and Andre Gray reduced the arrears with a rising shot just past the hour.

Watford pressed late on and David De Gea had to produce a brilliant stoppage-time save to deny Christian Kabasele after Nemanja Matic was sent off for a second bookable offence.

The result sees United climb to eighth on nine points while the Hornets are fourth.

Jose Mourinho's men will now travel to Young Boys in the Champions League on Wednesday in buoyant mood before hosting Wolves on Saturday. Watford will look to bounce back from only their second home loss under Gracia when they visit Fulham in the early kick off next weekend.

TALKING POINT

Fellaini helps Jose weather the storm and steady the ship. Back-to-back defeats against Brighton and Tottenham had put Mourinho under early pressure. The win over Burnley prior to the international break earned him some respite before his pre-match comments about Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba put him firmly back in the spotlight. This was a tricky match too against an in-form Watford, but the Portuguese boss masterminded a solid away-day display to claim back-to-back victories on the road. However, it wasn't Pogba, Lukaku or Sanchez who stole the show. The major contributions came from Marouane Fellaini, who had a hand in both goals and did a disciplined job in front of the back four. The Belgian star may not have the swagger United fans are looking for in a midfielder, but he played a key part in defending Watford's high balls and getting the Red Devils over the line.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United). Made an impact at both ends of the pitch. There's no doubt he was fundamental to repelling Watford's high, diagonal ball tactics while his aerial ability in the opposition's penalty area paid dividends too.

PLAYER RATINGS

WATFORD: Foster 8, Janmaat 6, Cathcart 7, Kabasele 7, Holebas 7, Doucoure 7, Capoue 7, Hughes 6, Pereyra 6, Gray 6, Deeney 6. Subs: Femenia 6, Masina n/a, Success n/a.

MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea 7, Valencia 6, Smalling 7, Lindelof 7, Young 7, Pogba 7, Fellaini 8, Matic 5, Sanchez 6, Lukaku 8, Lingard 6. Subs: Martial 6, McTominay n/a.

Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates the opening goal

Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates the opening goalPA Sport

KEY MOMENTS

17' - WATFORD CHANCE. A long, diagonal ball causes problems in the United defence. Fellaini can't quite clear and Deeney lets fly from just inside the area with a stinging shot that De Gea somehow pushes over the bar.

35' - GOAL! Watford 0-1 Man United. Lukaku bundles Young's cross into the net from close range after United had kept alive Fellaini's clever chest and cross from the right side of the box.

38' - GOAL! Watford 0-2 Man United. Smalling makes it two as he chests and volleys home Fellaini's nod down from a right-wing corner.

45' - MAN UNITED CHANCE. Almost three. Lingard floats a lovely right-wing cross to Pogba who meets it on the volley at the far post, but Foster is once again there to deny him with his legs.

65' - GOAL! Watford 1-2 Man United. Gray side-foots into the roof of the net after United had failed to deal with a cut back from the left.

90+3' - MAN UNITED RED CARD! Matic receives his second yellow for barging into Hughes on the right.

90+4' - WATFORD CHANCE. Christian Kabasele meets the resulting free kick from the right but sees his header brilliantly pushed away by De Gea.

Smalling against Watford

Smalling against WatfordGetty Images

KEY STATS

Lukaku has scored 20 goals in 39 Premier League apps for Man Utd; only three players have reached 20 PL goals for the Red Devils in fewer games than the Belgian - Ruud van Nistelrooy (26 games), Robin van Persie (32) and Dwight Yorke (34).

Watford have won just one of their last 16 matches with United in all competitions. The Hornets have lost 15 of those encounters.

United have won the last 25 PL games when they have netted the opening goal.

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