Manchester United 3 Watford 0
Manchester United inched to the brink of the Premier League top four with a 3-0 win against Watford at Old Trafford.
January signing Bruno Fernandes got the Reds up and running with his first United goal since signing from Sporting Lisbon when he impudently converted a first-half penalty.
The new recruit was also heavily involved in the second-half goals from in-form hitman Anthony Martial, who scored his third in under than a week after strikes against Chelsea and Club Brugge, and Mason Greenwood got in on the act as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side eventually cruised to fifth spot, three points adrift of Frank Lampard's Blues.
There was a scare after the break when Troy Deeney equalised, only for it to be ruled out by VAR for handball against Craig Dawson.
United v Watford: In images Gallery
Relive the best pictures from our 3-0 win over Watford at Old Trafford.
It was a shaky start by the Reds, particularly at the back, that gave Nigel Pearson’s relegation fighters plenty of encouragement to attempt to get on the front foot.
After four minutes United’s sloppiness almost gifted Watford an early boost in their bid to get out of the bottom three. Harry Maguire and Nemanja Matic got in each other's way as they attempted to mop up danger. Instead, they created mayhem and Deeney looked odds-on to shock Old Trafford. However, the Watford skipper took one extra touch and, as he shaped to pull the trigger, Luke Shaw stepped in with a timely block.
United’s first chance fell to Aaron Wan-Bissaka, after 17 minutes, when Ben Foster parried Daniel James’s cross into the right-back’s path. But it was a wayward attempt that only troubled the side-netting.
David De Gea had to keep out Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot on the half-hour as the Hornet’s again suggested they could be first to make the breakthrough.
James cracked in a decent effort soon after, but it was a struggle for United to rediscover the Premier League form we’d shown at Chelsea last Monday night in the 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge. Another chance was wasted after 38 minutes when Fred fired wide from a great position after being teed up by James.
Finally, the Reds got our noses in front when Fernandes was released by James and brought down by Foster inside the box. The no.18's penalty was the cheekiest of finishes to open his United goal account, three minutes before the interval.
Watford thought they’d levelled after 52 minutes when Deeney forced the ball home but, as he ran off celebrating, Maguire was already indicating a handball in the lead-up to the goal.
The Reds captain was correct as VAR disallowed the goal out because the initial corner had struck Dawson’s upper arm as he forced the save out of De Gea that led to the ball rolling across the line towards Deeney, who rammed it in. United’s response was brutal as we quickly went 2-0 ahead.
Architect Fernandes was involved again in a positive Reds attack as he sent Martial away in the 58th minute. The Frenchman’s chance looked to have been stifled originally by Foster and the Watford defence but he recovered possession, spun and brilliantly lifted an audacious clip into the net.
Fernandes should have had another assist as United turned up the heat but Maguire misdirected his header wide in the 68th minute as he passed up the chance of his second league goal in a week, having scored at Chelsea.
If United’s opening two goals had been audacious then the third was pure ferocity as Greenwood smashed in with his left foot. The youngster was involved in the move, doing excellently to drive forward and feed Fernandes on the right. When the new boy's return afforded him the chance to get on the scoresheet, who duly obliged with an emphatic finish that crashed in off the underside of the bar.
Gerard Deulofeu almost pulled one back with a teasing effort that clipped the top of the bar with De Gea beaten.
Solskjaer made three changes after 80 minutes and Odion Ighalo was close to his first Reds goal, soon after coming on, but was denied a dream Old Trafford debut against his old club when, after beating Foster, his shot from a tight angle was blocked at the near post by Adam Masina.
United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Shaw, Matic, Fred (McTominay 80), Fernandes, James, Greenwood (Chong 80), Martial (Ighalo 80)
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Williams, Mata.
Goals: Fernandes 42 (pen), Martial 58, Greenwood 75.
Watford: Foster, Masina, Cathcart, Dawson, Kabasele, Capoue, Doucoure (Cleverley 80), Hughes, Deulofeu, Pereyra (Sarr 69), Deeney (Welbeck 75).
Subs not used: Gomes, Mariappa, Chalobah, Gray.