Heurelho Gomes 7
Alan Shearer was being extremely harsh and unrealistic on Match of the Day when he said: “Gomes should have caught Mata’s free kick and had it in his hands.” Have a day off, Alan. Gomes perhaps shifted his balance to his left too early and was quite a way off his line but you could have had Gomes and Costel Pantilimon in the goal and they wouldn’t have saved the winning goal. Earlier, Watford’s player of the season elect watched a swerving shot from Mata all the way to fist it clear. His kicking was slightly erratic, with one second-half effort from hand aimed for no-man’s land and drifting out of play. Was concern when he went down injured but the Brazilian is made of strong stuff.
Allan Nyom 7
His best performance in weeks, if not months. Nyom showed why the head coach opted for him over Juan Carlos Paredes with a performance full of athleticism and energy. Ben Watson low fived him at one point in the first half after he forced Memphis Depay to shoot wildly over. He timed his defensive blocks well and took absolutely no chances, slamming one loose ball into the lower tier of the stand. The Cameroon international enjoyed a good tussle down United’s left with Depay and it is tough to recall him doing too much wrong, which is not something we’ve been able to say of late.
Sebastian Prodl 8
We think this was his best performance in a yellow shirt, eclipsing those he produced when the sun was shining at the start of season. He was more confident in possession than at any point of late, typified by the way he chested down a United clearance, dummied to go back to Gomes before playing a simple short pass to Watson. The Austrian was Watford’s main threat from set-pieces, hitting a snapshot from a knock down in the first half and going close with two second-half headers. He couldn’t believe Marcus Rashford headed the first off the line while the second was a blatant penalty. He made at least three key interceptions during United’s best spell of the game. Things went much better than when he partnered Britos at St Mary’s.
Miguel Britos 6.5
Not at his Rolls Royce best but still very good. His best moment came inside the first five minutes when he outmuscled Rashford and then dropped his shoulder and cut inside with a neat piece of footwork and ball play. The Uruguayan should really have got on the end of a deep Watson corner in the first half, so much so that Watson even threw his hands up in the air in disbelief. Britos also conceded the free-kick that led to the winner, going needlessly off his feet to foul Anthony Martial.
Jose Holebas 5
Looked like someone short of Premier League match sharpness, which is no surprise after being left out of the last three. Twice in the first half he miscontrolled the ball out of play under no pressure and it would have summed up his luck of late had he beat his own keeper with a clearance he went to hit with his weaker right foot but ended up coming off his standing leg. The Greece international also inadvertently hit his own man when Watson cleverly cut a free-kick back to him, although that was just bad luck. He needlessly gave the ball away in the lead up to Mata testing Gomes from long range, although he did get to the byline late on to create a chance for Nordin Amrabat. Expect Nathan Ake to play against Leicester.
Ben Watson 7
Produced an exhibition in the art of corner taking, using the wind to excellent effect. Watford could have had two goals from his inswinging corners and possibly more. Mopped up with minimal fuss and high efficiency at the base of the midfield and played the pivot role exactly as his head coach would have asked him to.
Valon Behrami 6
Usually deployed to help out either full-back but remained central throughout last night. Probably summed up his evening when he expertly robbed Mata of possession only to concede it back to him in the very next phase. Was solid if unspectacular.
Almen Abdi 6
Restored to the XI to help Watford keep possession and then use it effectively when they won it high up the field, in much the same way the head coach likes to use Jose Manuel Jurado. Had to do his fair share of defensive work and tried to be too cute, once in each half, in dangerous positions when he just needed to put his foot through it. Fizzed a long-range effort high over the bar in the first half and even the mild-mannered Switzerland international lost his rag when Ighalo failed to spot him on the overlap.
Etienne Capoue 7.5
Much, much better from the outrageously gifted Frenchman. He was given another new role last night, stationed out on the left where there was plenty of space and opportunity to run at and trick Guillermo Varela. He seemed bordering on obsessed with trying to nutmeg him at every opportunity and did so once with a backheel. Dovetailed beautifully with Deeney on occasions in the first half, combining to set up Ighalo with one presentable opportunity. Would have had Watford’s goal of the season gong sewn up had his rising, long-range piledriver at the start of the second period crept under David De Gea’s crossbar. Not many, if any, in the squad could have hit a shot like that with such technique and power. He even got stuck in and was spoken to by the referee.
Troy Deeney 8
Why was Roy Hodgson not watching this one instead of the drab draw with Bournemouth? Deeney was first class here and unfurled a series of dextrous touches and clever flicks. The pick was one from a pass by Nyom which he back flicked right into the path of Ighalo but the clever one he executed to tee up Capoue for his blockbuster of a shot was not far off. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, the 18-year-old making his full debut for United, will now know what English football is all about after being shoved and shunted around by Deeney. The Dutchman stood up well to Deeney who was in the mood. Can’t recall him having a crack at goal but that was probably more because Ighalo didn’t give him the chance.
Odion Ighalo 6.5
Yes, this is a relatively high mark for someone who missed a succession of chances in the first half but he would have been an eight or nine had he tucked one or two of those away. His build-up and link play is not his strong suit but he did that side of the game well at Old Trafford – it was just the bit he usually finds easy, the goalscoring part, he made a hash of. He was predatory in hunting down and forcing United into presenting him with two chances but his lack of awareness is becoming more than an annoyance. Deeney threw his hands up twice, as did Capoue and Abdi on other occasions, as Ighalo played with his head down and with the blinkers firmly on. It’s difficult to know whether it’s selfishness or just a technical glitch in his game. Whatever it is, Sanchez Flores needs to address it and sharpish. The head coach will, though, have liked the way he tracked back to snuff out Morgan Schneiderlin trying to orchestrate the play in the first half.
Mario Suarez 6.6
We thought his big-game temperament might land him a start at the Theatre of Dreams. He had to be content with 20 minutes off the bench as Sanchez Flores sought to stem the second-half tide. He rattled fellow substitute Matteo Darmian shortly after he came on and almost got on the end of a deep cross to the far post by Capoue.
Nordin Amrabat 6
On for Ighalo for the last 15 minutes, Amrabat struggled to get to grips with the pace of the game. Made a bit of a mess of a chance presented to him by a Holebas cut-back and got too much contact on the ball when a deftness of touch was required. We are still not quite sure whether he’s a winger or a striker.
Sent on for the last four minutes for the first time in the league since Southampton away. Not enough time for his pace to make an impact or earn a rating.
Quique Sanchez Flores 8
Looked to the manor born on the Old Trafford touchline where he remained throughout while Louis Van Gaal sat in the dugout. This was a classic tactical masterclass from Sanchez Flores, made even more impressive by the fact he only had three days to prepare and implement his carefully-crafted plan. He asked his players to press high up the pitch (a “high block”, he calls it) and the masterplan should have resulted in at least a point. Got his team selection spot on and finally, got a tune out of Capoue.