Manchester United score four in win at Watford
Ashley Young scored twice against his old club as Manchester United beat Watford in the Premier League.
United weathered late pressure from the hosts, having netted three goals in 13 first-half minutes to cut the deficit to five points on unbeaten leaders Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s side, though, can re-establish their eight-point advantage when they host Southampton on Wednesday.
Young drilled in a precise finish from the edge of the box, before curling in a stunning 25-yard free-kick six minutes later and Anthony Martial tucked in a cool finish from 18 yards out.
Brazilian Richarlison looped a header against the crossbar for Watford, but Troy Deeney scored a penalty and Abdoulaye Doucoure poked home from inside the area with six minutes to go for a tense finish.
But Jesse Lingard scored a stunning fourth for the visitors, picking the ball up inside his own half before driving forward into the box and finishing.
Don’t count United out
The Red Devils had lost their two previous away games in the league at Huddersfield and Chelsea, with Guardiola’s City threatening to run away with the title having dropped just two points from their opening 13 games.
But United’s tally of 32 points after 14 games is their best since the 2012-13 season, Sir Alex’s Ferguson’s last in charge and their most recent championship triumph.
Current manager Jose Mourinho is often criticised by supporters for his cautious approach, with Old Trafford legend Eric Cantona weighing into the debate this week by saying he prefers the “attacking football that Guardiola plays”.
He started with three at the back against the Hornets, which included Marcos Rojo’s first appearance since April because of a knee injury, and was vindicated by some clinical finishing.
Young, who started his career at Watford playing for the Hertfordshire club from 2003 to 2007, converted Lingard’s pass before netting a second into the top corner. He could have completed a hat-trick but struck the wall with a free-kick.
Frenchman Martial punished some poor Watford defending by stroking in his eighth of the season, the same total as in the whole of the last campaign.
United were holding on when Watford pulled to within a goal, but saved their best for last, as Lingard scored from a solo run having collected the ball 60 yards from the net.
Lukaku’s struggles continue
Striker Romelu Lukaku’s blistering start since joining United featured 11 goals in his first 10 games, but he has now managed just one in his previous 11.
The stats show he has been provided fewer chances by his team-mates and attempted fewer shots at goal compared to when he was finishing with regularity.
Against Watford, the Belgian had two shots on target, one effort which was pushed away by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who reacted sharply to keep out Lingard’s follow-up.
Lukaku’s lack of confidence was evident with 15 minutes to go when the ball was presented to him in front of goal, but he took too much time to set himself allowing the Watford defenders to retreat and clear.
United midfielder Paul Pogba should have got on the scoresheet too, but headed over from eight yards out.