Quique Sanchez Flores has vowed to support Odion Ighalo “more than ever” after he missed a series of chances at Old Trafford tonight.
Ighalo missed as many as four in the first half and one less presentable one in the second before being replaced by Nordin Amrabat. Watford’s top scorer has scored only twice in the league since that dreamy win over Liverpool and mustered just one in his last nine league outings.
“I understand the mentality of the strikers,” said Sanchez Flores. “He is a little bit frustrated and he tried hard but he made some bad decisions. I support him more than ever. He is one of the main players during the season and one of our first references.”
Ighalo’s all-round play tonight was very good. His build-up play was slick, he put himself about and did the hard work by engineering goalscoring opportunities. However, his confidence in front of goal has taken a hit and he’s snatching at chances he was previously instinctively putting away. Ighalo scored 29 goals in 2015 yet has just one so far in 2016.
“We try to reduce the pressure on him,” said Sanchez Flores. “He puts pressure on himself and he didn’t score. He thinks he needs to always score. Sometimes this is not the way to recuperate the feelings. He needs to work in a way to separate the bad feeling.”
Sanchez Flores was thrilled with the way his team executed his high block, high pressing plan this evening. “We had control for a long time,” he said.
The head coach was always wary of the attacking threat United posed – “every single player can decide the match,” he said – and he was not surprised the match-winner was Juan Mata as he had seen him do that type of thing from dead-ball situations since coaching him as a 14-year-old at Real Madrid.
However, he did have rare grounds for complaint at a decision by a referee, believing Michael Jones should have awarded Watford a second-half penalty for a foul on Sebastian Prodl when he desperately tried to connect with an inswinging Ben Watson corner at the far post.
“Normally I don’t complain,” he said. “We have a good level of referees in England but sometimes they don’t watch something that happened very close to the goal. Sometimes this happens.”