Manchester United vs Watford 5 Things We Learnt

Manchester United were unable to find the back of the net in their 0-0 draw with Watford, despite the Reds creating several chances. The clear-cut opportunities in the game fell to Portuguese duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes. However, the pair were unable to convert these chances on a very frustrating afternoon at Old Trafford. So let’s take a look at five things we learnt from this encounter.

1. Missed chances cost United against Watford

Dominating games but unable to find the back of the net has been the story of Ralf Rangnick’s tenure so far. In recent weeks, the Reds have been controlling games, creating chances and have improved at the back. Despite this, the Red Devils rarely have anything to show for their dominance and this is due to wasteful finishing in the final third.

This game was no different. Manchester United should have gone into halftime three or four nil up against Watford. Ronaldo hit the post, Fernandes saw his his one on one effort saved and his header from close range flew over. The attacking midfielder also worked himself a shooting opportunity, by delaying his shot twice only for Ronaldo to block his effort, which was destined for the back of the net.

The second half followed the same pattern. Paul Pogba and Anthony Elanga were both unable to hit the target from close range. While, Ronaldo saw his effort rebound back off teammate Elanga. Groans of frustration echoed around Old Trafford when the full-time whistle went, as United failed to win a game, which they dominated from start to end.

2. Lindelof shines against Watford

For Manchester United’s encounter against Watford, Rangnick made several changes to the side. In defence Victor Lindelof kept his place and alongside him was Raphael Varane. Against the Hornets, Lindelof was exceptional. The Sweden international won all of his duels, which allowed United to regain possession at a quicker rate. The 27-year-old was also impressive at winning the ball back from almost impossible situations.

Both Lindelof and Varane kept Watford attackers Emmanuel Dennis and Joshua King quiet throughout. The ‘ice-man’ also made some crucial blocks to deny lethal winger Ismaila Sarr from opening the scoring. Due to Lindelof having more pace than Maguire, the Red Devils were able to play a much higher line. This is something which Rangnick has tried to implement since his arrival at Old Trafford. Lindelof’s well rounded performance has led to shouts from the Old Trafford faithful to start the defender in the Manchester derby over Maguire.

3. Competition for places after promising performances

Manchester United boss, Ralf Rangnick sprung some surprise changes for the team against Watford. From the mid-week clash against Atletico Madrid, Nemanja Matic, Alex Telles, Aaron Wan Bissaka and Anthony Elanga all came into the side. They replaced English internationals Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho. Matic, Telles, Wan-Bissaka and Elanga all impressed off the bench in the midweek clash and were rewarded with starts.

All four put in impressive performances, which leaves Rangnick with some selection dilemmas. Wan-Bissaka was brilliant at winning the ball back high up the pitch and he also put in a delightful cross to set up Ronaldo. However, the right back was still below-par when he had the ball at his feet and therefore Diogo Dalot will likely get his place back. In the other full-back position, Telles was equally as impressive. He won the Reds possession on many occasions and his passing was always forward and direct into the channels. The Brazilian must work on his end product as his crossing wasn’t up to scratch. It is likely that he keeps his place over Shaw, who hasn’t been on top form in recent weeks.

Matic rolled back the years

Matic may have been United’s man of the match in this encounter. The Serbian worked brilliantly with Fred to intercept, break up play and begin attacks with defence splitting passes. The only limitation with Matic is the fact he can rarely last the full 90 minutes due to his fitness and age. Lastly, Elanga was electric as usual. He was direct with his runs and the Watford backline simply could not cope with him. It was the first time that Old Trafford really saw how fast he was when he knocked the ball past the Watford left-back and got his cross in. The youngster was unable to replicate his composed finish from midweek and give United the lead. However, the teenager is likely to keep his place over Rashford in the coming weeks.

4. Time for a change in attack?

United’s run of dominating matches but not winning is now happening too frequently to be considered an anomaly. This pattern is becoming increasingly concerning and Rangnick must address this. With Edison Cavani out at the moment, Ronaldo is United’s only option as a number nine. However, United’s number seven has not been at his best in recent weeks and perhaps need a rest. With the Reds facing City, Spurs and Liverpool in the next few weeks, a change is needed.

Earlier this season the Red Devils had success against Chelsea by using Bruno Fernandes as a false nine. This could be the solution Rangick has been looking for. Against City and Liverpool, the Reds will have too primarily play on the break, a game-plan which Ronaldo isn’t suited to. Therefore, Rangick could use Ronaldo to make an impact off the bench and provide a focal point late on. In his absence Fernandes would lead the line with two wingers either side of him and an additional midfielder behind him.

Alternatively, a 3-5-2 could be used, as recent reports have suggested that Ronaldo believes a striking partner would significantly help him. Evidently, United had success with two strikers against Spurs back in October, where Cavani partnered Ronaldo. While questions remains over the fitness of Cavani, winger Jadon Sancho could start in one of these advanced forward roles. United’s summer signing is extreamely creative and Ronaldo would benefit off having Sancho playing much closer to him. It will be interesting to see what Rangnick does with United’s mis-firing forward line.

5. Is top four out of reach?

This draw means United have lost even more ground in the top four race. The Reds could have done with the three points with difficult fixtures coming up in the the next weeks. Had Manchester United seen off Burnley, Southampton and Watford they would have been in a much more promising position. Instead, rivals Arsenal are now favourites for the last top four position. To gain qualification for next seasons UEFA Champions League, United may have to win this years competition. Manager Ralf Rangnick must set his side up almost perfectly in a tactical sense and hope that his players find their finishing touch. If the Red Devils fail to become more clinical, they are likely to be on the end of some heavy defeats in the next few weeks.

Author: Rajan Sangha

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