Manchester United produced as complete a performance as they have all season to dismiss Watford by a score of 2-1. Though the visitors were well-organised and attacked on the counter with pace, they had no answer for the tempo and precision of United’s passing through midfield, which was at times a joy to watch.
United were very strong from front to back, with Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan a brilliant trio of playmakers. Eric Bailly was excellent at the back, while Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera were dominant in midfield.
If there were any black marks, then they were against the finishing of Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the first half; had they been more accurate, this would doubtless have been a rout.
8 — Jose Mourinho rotated several members of his team and still came away with a resounding victory. His ability to do that stands his team in excellent stead for their three cup competitions and quest for a UEFA Champions League place.
GK David De Gea, 7 — Was sharp whenever called upon in either half, hanging on to well-struck drives and calmly clearing his lines when under substantial pressure from forwards.
DF Chris Smalling, 8 — Excellent again. Was seldom troubled down his flank, and when getting forward his audacious dribbles were a sign of his burgeoning confidence. His final ball was very good, too.
DF Eric Bailly, 8 — He made his defensive assignment look far simpler than it was. He stopped his opponents with both strength and subtlety, while also passing with pace and precision.
DF Chris Smalling, 7 — Had a couple of uncomfortable moments in the first half as his opposite man eluded him, but was otherwise competent.
DF Daley Blind, 7 — His eye for a pass was essential to United’s first-half dominance, during which he could often be found breaking forward. Had a tougher second half as M’Baye Niang showed his full array of tricks.
MF Ander Herrera, 9 — A key reason for Manchester United’s maintenance of an extraordinary tempo for much of the first half. Endlessly prompted the attack and screened his defence throughout.
MF Paul Pogba, 8 — His runs forward both with and without the ball were devastating. He was again difficult to dispossess, and spread the play with ease.
MF Juan Mata, 9 — His touch, movement and vision were sublime, as he created patterns of passing that regularly tore Watford asunder. His goal, United’s opener, was a minor masterpiece.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 8 — The only thing that his superb performance was missing was a goal; had his finishing been better, he might have been the player of the match. Marauded from start to finish, and his first-time passing was exceptional.
MF Anthony Martial, 9 — This was the perfect response to weeks of speculation about his future. He regularly raced past multiple players on the dribble, combined beautifully with Mata for the game’s opening goal and then broke at eye-watering speed to thrash home the decisive second. His standing ovation upon his substitution was fully deserved.
FW Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 7 — Should have scored on at least two occasions — from a Pogba long ball in the first half and a Mkhitaryan cross in the second — but his link-up play, particularly with Mkhitaryan, was very good throughout, and his one-touch passing in tight spaces was typically outstanding.
MF Marouane Fellaini, NR — His passing was fairly prompt and he got into dangerous attacking positions, though these were not fully exploited by his teammates.
MF Marcus Rashford, NR — Immediately made his trademark run cutting in from the left, and his pace further stretched an already flagging Watford defence.
MF Jesse Lingard, NR — By the time he entered the fray, it was all over, with United patiently playing keep-ball to run down the clock.