Scott McTominay’s fifth-minute header was enough to give Manchester United victory over Watford in the FA Cup third-round clash at Old Trafford.
United’s captain for the night leapt to head home Alex Telles’ corner but, after dominating the first twenty minutes when Eric Bailly could have scored from another corner from the Brazilian, the Championship side had most of the play.
They could not carve many clear chances though with their best attempt coming when a free kick was flicked to Adam Masina, but Dean Henderson spread himself well to half block the ball before Axel Tuanzebe cleared.
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Despite a lacklustre performance at times, United could have extended their lead with Hornets stopper Daniel Bachman making decent saves from Juan Mata and substitute Marcus Rashford.
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It is easy to forget Jesse Lingard was a key player for England just three years ago in the World Cup for England.
A return to international football is still a long way away but he showed glimpses in his display – albeit against lesser opposition – reminding us of his skillset that made him a key player for Gareth Southgate.
The ability to pick up the ball on the half-turn and run at full pace towards goal before slipping a good pass into the path of a forward, on this occasion Mason Greenwood, was on show today.
At his best he is hard to mark when getting in good positions in the final third and the signs he showed today will only increase the rumoured interest to sign him from a lot of the bottom-half sides in the Premier League during this transfer window.
Man of the match – Scott McTominay
He is not United’s best player but he is their most dependable and without him they could have had a long night, perhaps going into penalties.
While his header for the goal was the highlight clip, most impressive was the way he was consistently back in his own area stopping Watford crosses and through-balls in the box.
The Scot in some ways is reminiscent of his compatriot Darren Fletcher, certainly in terms of temperament, but has a little more composure and physical presence than United’s new assistant coach.
He leads by example and will surely be United’s permanent skipper before too long.
Manchester United: Henderson 7, Williams 6, Bailly 6, Tuanzebe 7, Telles 7, McTominay 8*, Van de Beek 6, James 6, Mata 6, Lingard 7, Greenwood 5.
Subs: Maguire 6, Rashford 7, Martial 5, Matic 6.
Watford: Bachmann 7, Navarro 7, Sierralta 6, Troost-Ekong 6, Masina 7, Sarr 7, Chalobah 6, Hughes 7, Zinckernagel 6, Pedro 6, Gray 6.
Subs: Phillips 6, Wilmot 6, Ngakia 6, Hungbo 6.
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5’ GOAL FOR UNITED! The Red Devils skipper McTominay heads home the corner. It didn't exactly bullet into the net heading into the ground but it bounces high over Bachmann's dive and into the top corner.
16’ Great chance for Messina, Hughes's free kick was flicked on at the edge of the penalty area and his effort is partially parried by Henderson before Tuanzebe clears on the line.
20’ Another good outswinging delivery from Telles from a corner and this time Bailly meets it with a free header at the front post but pushes it just wide of the goal.
43’ Lovely inter-play between Greenwood and van de Beek, who with a backheel set up Mata but Bachman spread himself and denied the Spaniard.
81’ Rashford glides past Hughes and Wilmott and then Bachmann makes a good save diving to his right.
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