Manchester United forward Juan Mata pens his latest weekly blog and looks ahead to an important month of football in December…
November was an important month in our calendar and it leaves a bittersweet taste – in the last 30 days we haven’t been defeated, but the last two draws haven’t been good for us, especially the one on Wednesday against PSV because we knew it was a game that we had to win. The score was not the one we wanted, which means that winning in Wolfsburg is almost the only valid result for us if we want to get through. It’s not an easy task but we are confident that we can make it to the next stage. The Champions League is a very important competition for us and we want to remain in it.
That game in Germany will be one of the six ‘finals’ we are facing in a busy December. We’re starting to see a Christmas atmosphere in the streets of Manchester and, in this country, that is a synonym of football and more football. The next game – therefore the most important one right now – is on Saturday against West Ham. They have had a good start this season and have won more games away than at home. However, as I said, we don’t like draws and we want to go back to the victories. They have a very good manager and some of their players are very talented, but our aim is to get the three points and we have the whole week to work well on this game.
Things are very tight at the top of the table. It’s not easy to defeat the teams who are up there, as we could see at Leicester last Saturday. They know the way they want to play and how to make the most of it. We believed we could win but at the end we only got one point, despite taking the initiative most of the time. Congratulations to Jamie Vardy for breaking the record of such a great player as Ruud van Nistelrooy – scoring in 11 consecutive league games deserves a lot of credit. Sadly his goal made us drop two points, otherwise we would be leading the table now. There’s still a long way to go but if we want to fight for the Premier League title we have to win these kind of games.
SMALLING: GEMS TO BE FOUND IN NON-LEAGUE
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling feels more “hidden gems” like Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy can be found further down the football pyramid.
The centre-back was speaking to reporters after playing against Vardy on Saturday, when the Foxes forward set a new Barclays Premier League standard by scoring in an eleventh consecutive game. His feat seems even more remarkable when you consider the record breaker was playing non-league football for Fleetwood Town in the Conference, England’s fifth tier, as recently as 2011/12.
“With Jamie’s success, I think you will see clubs having a little bit more of a look in non-league for players,” said Smalling, who began his own career a couple of rungs below the Conference.
“If you can find some sort of hidden gems in local or non-league football, I think it would be a no-brainer to give them a chance.”
Smalling started out at Maidstone United in 2007/08, when the Kent side were playing in the Isthmian League. He believes his stint there, prior to joining Fulham, has helped him to stay grounded and very appreciative of where he is today as a regular starter for both the Reds and England.
“It’s one job getting here but it’s 10 times harder making sure you stay here,” reflected Smalling.
“There is so much competition and this club is always seeking the best players so I think you have got that drive to make sure that you deserve your place in the team.
“If you do have a bad game, then you can look back and see how far you have come. For example, we didn’t have changing rooms in non-league football like the ones we see nowadays. Sometimes I’d be better off getting changed in my car!”
It seems experiences like those have helped to shape Smalling and Vardy. “Jamie is such a laid-back character,” commented Chris on his now England colleague.
“Everyone is talking about him and he is doing great things this season but you can tell he is the kind of lad that is not going to change. He takes everything in his stride.”
Smalling could have just as easily been talking about himself.
Scorers: Vardy 24, Schweinsteiger 45 | 28 November 2015 | King Power Stadium | Attendance: 32,115
Manchester United played out a 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in a hard-fought match, as Bastian Schweinsteiger netted his first goal for the club.
Jamie Vardy was undoubtedly the story of the day as he scored for the 11th game in succession – a Barclays Premier League record – to put the Foxes in front on 24 minutes, before Schweinsteiger levelled proceedings on the stroke of half-time.
The boss made four changes to the side that featured in the midweek draw with PSV Eindhoven, bringing in Paddy McNair, Juan Mata, Ashley Young and the fit again Michael Carrick whose return offered a timely pre-match boost. The United manager opted to set up with three at the back, with Chris Smalling, McNair and Daley Blind in front of David De Gea; Matteo Darmian and Young provided support as wing-backs.
Unsurprisingly, proceedings kicked-off at a lively tempo as a raucous atmosphere provided the perfect backdrop as the teams began to sound one another out in the opening exchanges. It was the home side that had more of the ball to begin with, but van Gaal’s men soon warmed into the game, probing around the Leicester 16-yard-box as the Reds searched for the ideal start.
The forward line of Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Mata showed some nice touches, helping to win a flurry of corners that would, however, aid United’s downfall as Vardy’s prolific run continued.
Kasper Schmeichel claimed comfortably from Blind’s set-piece before wasting no time in picking out Christian Fuchs as the Foxes sprung out of defence. Finding himself in acres of space, the Austrian played through a pinpoint ball to find Vardy who demonstrated all the hallmarks of striker in form as he coolly slotted past De Gea. The Englishman peeled away to milk the acclaim of the Leicester fans, as the King Power stood to salute the man who had just broken Ruud van Nistelrooy’s run of scoring in ten consecutive games.
Understandably buoyed by Vardy’s record-breaking intervention, Leicester set about hammering home their advantage. Riyad Mahrez was the next to go close for Claudio Ranieri’s men as he combined superbly with Shinji Okazaki on the edge of the area, but his shot was well saved by De Gea.
It was a concern that van Gaal’s men looked a little unsettled after conceding and looked destined to end the half behind, however just as he did at Watford, Schweinsteiger came to United’s rescue as he headed home a Blind corner to bag a crucial equaliser, only seconds before the referee’s whistle.
FIRST HALF STATISTICS
Possession: Leicester 33% United 67%
Shots at goal: Leicester 3 United 6
Shots on target: Leicester 2 United 1
Corners: Leicester 1 United 5
With the game delicately poised, United and Leicester came out of the traps well at the start of the second 45 as both sides went close to retaking the lead. Man of the moment Vardy failed to meet Marc Albrighton’s dinked cross as he found himself unmarked in the Reds area, before Schweinsteiger almost doubled his tally for the day, heading straight at Schmeichel from close range.
A bright start then gave way to a cagey period, but with United firmly in control of possession, a factor lacking during an open first period. That said, the threat of a Leicester counter-attack constantly loomed over the game, with another swift break involving the excellent Mahrez and substitute Leonardo Ulloa forcing De Gea into another important stop.
Undeterred, United maintained composure and continued to spread the ball around with purpose but without really troubling the home side’s well-drilled defensive set-up. Van Gaal introduced Memphis Depay in place of Rooney who had taken a knock earlier in the half, as the United boss attempted to inject more pace into the Reds’ attack.
As hoped, United’s no.7 did look dangerous on the left, but he will have been disappointed not to do better when played in by Darmian’s header as he shot over.
Vardy again threatened, before Darmian fired an effort just over the bar late on, bringing to an end a tight encounter.
Possession: Leicester 31% United 69%
Shots at goal: Leicester 7 United 10
Shots on target: Leicester 3 United 2
Corners: Leicester 1 United 8
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson (De Laet 80), Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez, Kante, Drinkwater, Albrighton (Schlupp 70), Okazaki (Ulloa 60), Vardy.
Subs not used: Schwarzer, King, Dyer, Inler.
United: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, McNair, Blind, Carrick, Schweinsteiger, Mata, Young, Rooney (Memphis 68), Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, Borthwick-Jackson, Fellaini, Pereira, Schneiderlin, Rashford.
Van Gaal: “We were the better team and created chances to win the game. We dominated for 90 minutes but have drawn the match.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger: “I am happy with the goal, but I would be more happy if I had taken the second chance I had in the second half.”
How to follow the match: Saturday’s top-of-the-table Barclays Premier League clash at the King Power Stadium kicks off at 17:30 GMT and fans in the UK can watch the game live on Sky Sports 1. You can also keep up with all the action in our live match blog or via @ManUtd on Twitter. MUTV’s live matchday programmes will be broadcast at 16:30 GMT and 19:30 GMT, with the game shown in full at 18:00 GMT and 21:00 GMT on Sunday.
Scene-setter: Manchester United will leapfrog Leicester City at the top of the table with a win this weekend. After a frustrating evening in the UEFA Champions League against PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, the Reds will be out to prove a point and, if a United man finds the back of the net, it will be the team’s 100th goal away at Leicester in all competitions. A fixture that has previously provided plenty in terms of both goals and entertainment – the two teams have racked up 57 in their last 17 meetings – Saturday’s game is one not to be missed.
Form guide: United go into the game having won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Leicester, the exception being the corresponding fixture last season, when Louis van Gaal’s side fell to a tumultuous 5-3 defeat. The Reds, who have lost only one of the last nine Premier League matches, will hope to emulate the spirit shown in last weekend’s late win over Watford, when facing a free-scoring Leicester side. Since the arrival of manager Claudio Ranieri in the summer, the Foxes have blossomed; they are the only team to have scored in all 13 Premier League games and will go into the clash with confidence, having notched 28 goals so far this term.
Latest team news: Both Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial returned to United’s starting XI for the encounter with PSV in midweek, after missing the previous game at Vicarage Road. Phil Jones, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera are all still doubtful, while Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw remain definite absentees. The manager is likely to provide further updates at his pre-match press conference on Friday. Ranieri, however, has nearly a full squad to choose from; ex-Red Matty James is the only player set to miss out as the midfielder continues his recovery from a knee injury sustained in May.
View from the opposition: “United’s defensive line is fantastic. They defend like a unit and it’s difficult to break their lines. We’re top of the table and in this moment I think we deserve it, but this is another match to understand where we can improve.” – Claudio Ranieri
Trivia: Saturday’s clash might seem unusual, but we’ve been here before. In fact, you only have to go back 15 years to find a similar story during the 2000/01 campaign. After an eight-game unbeaten run, Paul Taylor’s Leicester side were flying high and found themselves top of the table by October. The Foxes were brought back down to earth, however, when they faced a strong, second-placed United side at Filbert Street, as goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lifted the Reds to the top of the table.
Danger man: Whether running with the ball at defenders or using his pace to chase through-balls, Jamie Vardy relishes the opportunity to take on his man. The Leicester striker has been clinical in front of goal and has equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record for scoring in 10 consecutive Premier League matches, in an overall tally of 12 goals this season. Since signing from Conference Premier side Fleetwood Town in 2012, Vardy has established himself as a vital part of Leicester’s well-oiled machine.
Betting: Official betting partner Marathonbet make United the favourites at 69/50, with a Leicester victory priced at 113/50 and the draw at 123/50. For the latest odds, or to sign up with Marathonbet, visit manutd.com/bet.
Referee: South Yorkshire official Craig Pawson takes charge of his second United game this season, having presided over the Reds’ goalless draw with Newcastle United at Old Trafford in August.
Manchester United’s bid to reach the Champions League knockout stages will go to the final matchday after PSV Eindhoven battled their way to a goalless draw at Old Trafford.
Louis van Gaal’s men dominated the proceedings but found the Dutch visitors in resolute form, with goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet denying the likes of Anthony Martial on several occasions.
The result leaves United in second place in Group B, one point behind leaders Wolfsburg, who beat CSKA Moscow earlier in the evening, and a point ahead of PSV. The Reds travel to Germany in two weeks’ time, with the top three teams still in contention to qualify. Van Gaal made four changes to the side that beat Watford, with Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo plus fit-again Martial and Wayne Rooney coming in for Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata.
United saw nearly all of the ball early in the game but were unable to create any clear-cut openings. Off the pitch, the seventh minute heralded a touching visual tribute to a club icon as fans around the ground switched on their smartphone torches to mark the 10th anniversary of George Best’s passing.
The Reds’ first real opening came in the 20th minute, when Darmian was released down the right and whipped over a dangerous cross that was fingertipped away by Zoet, with Rooney poised to pounce. The United captain then found a well-placed Jesse Lingard inside the box but the winger miscontrolled the ball and the opportunity slipped by. Morgan Schneiderlin came within inches of opening the scoring on the half-hour mark as he prodded Daley Blind’s corner goalwards but Zoet dropped onto the ball on his line. David De Gea was called into action for the first time soon after, making a flying save to clutch Jorrit Hendrix’s attempted curler after a swift PSV counter-attack.
Ten minutes before the break, Lingard’s shot was deflected into Martial’s path but the Frenchman’s effort inside the box was kicked away by Zoet. Rooney then pounced on Zoet’s slip on the edge of his box but the PSV stopper forced United’s skipper wide and recovered his ground to avert the danger. Just before the interval, Memphis fed Martial on the left of the box but Zoet again denied the striker.
Possession: United 66% PSV 34%
Shots at goal: United 9 PSV 3
Shots on target: United 6 PSV 2
Corners: United 6 PSV 2
The Reds started the second half on the front foot and Schneiderlin powered a header just over from Blind’s corner, before Lingard glanced Martial’s cross narrowly wide. At the other end, Luuk de Jong beat Blind on the right-hand side of the box but flashed his shot over.
Van Gaal made a double substitution on the hour mark, bringing on Marouane Fellaini and Young for Bastian Schweinsteiger and Memphis, but the visitors continued to frustrate United, sitting deep and occasionally looking to hit the hosts on the break, with Chris Smalling crucially blocking Santiago Arias’ cross at the end of one such foray forward.
Lingard spurned a great chance to break the deadlock with just under 20 minutes remaining, firing a first-time shot over from inside the box after good work on the right by Young. And despite the late introduction of Mata, that proved to be the Reds’ best opportunity in the closing exchanges, meaning the club’s Champions League fate will be decided in Germany in a fortnight. FULL-TIME STATISTICS
Possession: United 61% PSV 39%
Shots at goal: United 13 PSV 8
Shots on target: United 7 PSV 4
Corners: United 9 PSV 3
United: De Gea; Darmian (Mata 85), Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Schweinsteiger (Fellaini 58), Schneiderlin; Lingard, Rooney, Memphis (Young 58); Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, McNair, Pereira, Wilson.
PSV Eindhoven: Zoet; Arias, Bruma, Moreno, Brenet; Propper, Hendrix (Isimat 60), Guardado; Narsingh (Pereiro 18), De Jong, Locadia.
Subs not used: Pasveer, Schaars, Maher, Poulsen, Bergwijn.
Booked: De Jong, Arias.
How to follow the match: Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League match at Old Trafford kicks off at 19:45 GMT and fans in the UK can watch the game live on BT Sport. You can keep up with all the action in our live match blog or via @ManUtd on Twitter.MUTV’s live matchday programmes will be broadcast at 18:30 and 21:45 GMT, while full coverage of the game will be aired throughout Thursday.
Scene-setter: Sitting at the top of Group B, Manchester United will qualify for the knockout stages with a win over PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday evening, despite a relatively slow start to the competition. On his return to the side, Memphis – who scored in the reverse fixture in the Netherlands – helped to secure three points for the Reds with a goal against Watford on Saturday and will no doubt want to do the same against his former club. PSV boss Phillip Cocu will again seek to get one over his former coach – he played under Louis van Gaal at FC Barcelona – with a win that would take his side to the top of the group and put them in a strong position to qualify.
Form guide: United go into the game with confidence, despite conceding a first goal in 641 minutes of football at the weekend. After three consecutive 0-0 draws in October, the Reds have found goalscoring form again, with five different players netting in the last three games. Van Gaal hailed the passion of his players after a late winner against Watford and will be looking to take that spirit into Wednesday’s game. PSV, who sit second in the Group B table, are targeting their first away points in this season’s competition after defeats at CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg. The Dutch side threw away a 1-0 lead against a struggling Willem II at the weekend before rescuing a 2-2 draw, which ended a run of four straight wins. Afterwards, boss Cocu criticised his side’s lack of concentration and motivation ahead of the clash with United.
Latest team news: Van Gaal will be hopeful that strikers Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial are available for selection on Wednesday after missing the weekend’s game at Watford. Ander Herrera and Phil Jones could be sidelined after limping off either side of half-time at Vicarage Road, while Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and James Wilson are also doubtful. Van Gaal is likely to provide further updates at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday. Luke Shaw, who is still recovering from a broken leg sustained in the first game in Eindhoven, and Antonio Valencia are definite absentees. For PSV, Hector Moreno, who scored in the first game after being involved in the tackle in which Shaw was injured, is doubtful, alongside Maxime Lestienne and Simon Poulsen.
View from the dressing room: “It’s true that we started off with a defeat in the first game, but since then we’ve been picking up points and now we’re just a small step away from qualification. We know it will be a difficult game but we need to get the victory and grab the three points.” – David De Gea
Trivia: There have been five games between the sides since they first met back in 1984 with United winning 1-0 on aggregate in the UEFA Cup. The teams clashed again in the group stages of the 2000/01 Champions League campaign, with both matches providing plenty of entertainment. The Reds lost 3-1 away, but in the return fixture the result was flipped with Teddy Sheringham, Paul Scholes and Dwight Yorke all on the scoresheet. United have therefore won both home meetings so far and van Gaal will hoping to make it three out of three at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
Danger man: Luuk de Jong is not only PSV’s leading goalscorer but also the top marksman in the Dutch Eredivisie this term. In his last 12 games, the 25-year-old has scored 11 goals, including a late equaliser at the weekend as his team salvaged a point against Willem II. However, he has been fairly quiet in this year’s Champions League campaign, netting just once, in his side’s victory at home to Wolfsburg. The Netherlands international moved to PSV from Borussia Monchengladbach after a short loan spell with Newcastle United.
Betting: Official betting partner Marathonbet make United the favourites at 49/100, with a PSV victory priced at 13/2 and the draw at 73/20. To get the latest odds, and sign up with Marathonbet, visit manutd.com/bet.
Referee: Czech official Pavel Kralovec takes charge of his second United game, having previously refereed the Reds’ 1-1 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2013/14 campaign.
Manchester United play in the Champions League against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League – which players should they use?
Manchester United take on PSV Eindhoven as they look to secure Champions League group stage qualification.
PSV have been the only side to beat United in the Champions League this season, and when the two sides played one another in the Netherlands, it was Hector Moreno’s ridiculous tackle which broke Luke Shaw’s leg.
United’s injury list has continued to grow, with Phil Jones and Ander Herrera likely unavailable for Wednesday’s match. Anthony Martial’s knock, suffered on international duty, could keep him out for another match. Wayne Rooney was too ill to play against Watford, but should be fit for the next match.
With Memphis scoring against Watford it seems likely that he will remain in attack, and Rooney can replace the injured Herrera at 10. Marouane Fellaini could feature to give Bastian Schweinsteiger a rest, with Leicester City to play next Saturday evening, but he too is injured and not certain to be available.
The defence will be missing Jones, Antonio Valencia and Shaw, so Blind, Rojo and Darmian are the options on the left side of the defence. It seems unlikely Louis van Gaal will persist with three at the back. What is your preferred line up?
Subs: Romero, Rojo, McNair, Fellaini, Pereira, Martial, Wilson.
MATA BLOG: TOP SPOT IS OUR AIM
Manchester United forward Juan Mata pens his latest weekly blog, reflecting on the win at Watford, a victory he describes as “more than three points”, and says the Reds are focused on securing top spot in the Champions League and Barclays Premier League…
We could make an important step to finish first in our group in the Champions League and we could climb to the top of the Premier League. This is how we face this new week. We’re feeling optimistic, as always, and our goal is to win both games and to have the best possible start to the busy period ahead. Obviously it’s going to be tough, and we will need to be at our highest level to beat PSV and Leicester. But let’s go little by little.
About our last game against Watford, it’s never easy to have the full squad available after an international break. We’re not being very lucky with trips and injuries this season so we went to Watford and the team had several changes with respect to the previous game, but still we were hoping to get the three points. And we did it. I wouldn’t say it was a nice football game, but I think that in the first half, and especially in the first few minutes, we were the better team and, as a consequence, we got a good goal from Memphis. In the second half, we had some chances but it’s true that they did good pressing and we couldn’t play the ball and control the game. They converted a late penalty but we showed great courage to score again before the final whistle and, following other results, we climbed to second position in the table. I’d like to highlight that we kept the team spirit until the end and I hope we do it throughout the whole season. A tough win like this one, when you don’t play very good, means more than three points.
Our next rival in the Premier League, as I said before, is Leicester. Claudio Ranieri’s team is having a remarkable season and the proof is that they are top of the league. In particular, Vardy (who has equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10 consecutive games) and Mahrez are outstanding, playing at an exceptional level – we will have to be very careful with them.
But, before that, it’s time for another Champions League night at Old Trafford against PSV Eindhoven. We lost there in the first week and now we want to get the three points that would take us closer to the next stage, and to live another special European night in the Theatre of Dreams.
Have a nice week.
Scorers: Deeney (pen) 87; Memphis 11, Deeney o.g 90 | 21 November 2015 | Vicarage Road | Attendance: 20,702
Despite a raft of injuries, picked up before and during the visit to Watford, Manchester United earned a dramatic 2-1 victory at Vicarage Road with Memphis Depay scoring on his return to the side and Bastian Schweinsteiger playing his part in an injury-time winner.
In a game dominated by Louis van Gaal’s men in the first half and controlled by the Hornets in the second, Memphis’s fine first-half goal and an own goal from Troy Deeney, who had equalised for Watford, secured a vital win and, at least temporarily, took United top of the table. David De Gea’s part in the win cannot be overlooked either after a string of top saves from the Spanish stopper.
Van Gaal made four changes to the side that started the Reds’ last match against West Brom, with Phil Jones, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Memphis all coming in. They replaced the injured pairing of Michael Carrick and Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney, who is ill, and Marcos Rojo, who was named on the bench after a long journey back from South America for international duty. After recently including youngsters Axel Tuanzebe and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson in his matchday squad, van Gaal named two more prospects among the substitutes – striker Marcus Rashford and midfielder Sean Goss.
Another homegrown talent who has impressed so much in recent weeks, Jesse Lingard, got United on the attack from the off, and was inches away from connecting with Juan Mata’s right-wing cross with just a minute on the clock. And it wasn’t long before the Reds took the lead.
The danger came down the right once more as former Watford man Ashley Young found Ander Herrera and his first-time cross was brilliantly volleyed into the top corner by Memphis.
United were well in control of proceedings but breathed a sigh of relief on 21 minutes when Young had the ball taken off his toes by Etienne Capoue who sprinted forward. Watford found themselves with two against one as Capoue found Odion Ighalo, but the striker shot wide.
The Reds lost Herrera to what looked like a hamstring injury soon after, with Rojo coming on to join Chris Smalling, captain for the day with Rooney and Carrick both out, and Phil Jones in a makeshift back three. Not long after coming on, Rojo sent a ball into the box which bounced around before eventually dropping to Schneiderlin who smashed a volley just over the bar.
The French midfielder went close again just after the half-hour mark when Bastian Schweinsteiger flicked a corner across the box only for Troy Deeney to acrobatically flick it away to prevent Schneiderlin tapping home at the back post.
Memphis almost doubled his and United’s tally for the day six minutes before the break when he took aim from 25 yards, but Heurelho Gomes got down well to push it clear.
Possession: Watford 40% United 60%
Shots at goal: Watford 2 United 4
Shots on target: Watford 0 United 2
Corners: Watford 1 United 4
Gomes was called into action straight after the restart when Capoue presented Memphis with possession in midfield. The goalscorer powered forward and slipped a reverse pass in to Lingard whose shot was well saved by the Watford keeper.
Thereafter, Watford took control with De Gea needing to be on red alert on more than one occasion. Four minutes before the hour mark, Watford put together their best move of the game as Deeney caught the ball brilliantly on the edge of the box after being set up by Ighalo but De Gea pushed it clear. The United goalkeeper then had Schneiderlin to thank minutes later when he blocked Ighalo’s effort from five yards out.
Watford continued to turn the screw and De Gea made two superb stops in quick succession after the Reds had lost Jones to what appeared to be yet another injury. The Hornets got the ball into the box and after it had pinged about, Almen Abdi had a go but De Gea got down brilliantly to tip away after it had deflected off Smalling. He then palmed away the resulting corner from almost inside his goal.
Lingard had a chance to seal the victory seven minutes from time but wasn’t able to lob Gomes as he advanced from goal. It looked to be a crucial miss when Deeney levelled proceedings from penalty spot after Rojo tripped Ignalo three minutes from full-time. Referee Robert Madley took some time before making the decision and Deeney made no mistake by lashing past De Gea.
Yet, there was still more to drama to come in injury-time. United piled on the pressure and, after Gomes had saved spectacularly from Smalling, he could only palm Lingard’s shot into the path of Schweinsteiger who sent the ball back across goal for it to be turned home by Deeney, as he tried to scramble off the line. Cue wild celebrations from the Reds and another important three points.
Possession: Watford 44% United 56%
Shots at goal: Watford 10 United 13
Shots on target: Watford 5 United 6
Corners: Watford 4 United 10
Watford: Gomes; Nyom (Paredes 68), Cathcart, Britos, Anya; Capoue, Watson; Abdi, Jurado (Ake 46), Deeney (c); Ighalo.
Subs not used: Arlauskis, Oulare, Guedioura, Ibarbo, Diamanti.
United: De Gea; Young, Jones (McNair 68), Smalling, Blind; Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger; Mata (Pereira 79), Herrera (Rojo 25), Lingard; Memphis.
Subs not used: Romero, Darmian, Goss, Rashford.
Booked: Young, Lingard
MAN OF THE MATCH
David De Gea once again played a crucial role in securing the points for United with a host of top saves at vital moments at Vicarage Road. He was powerless to stop Troy Deeney’s penalty, but he romped the Man of the Match poll with 78% of the votes, ahead of goalscorer Memphis and former Watford player Ashley Young.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Louis van Gaal: “I was amazed at the spirit in our team. We had the late penalty but, as a team, we created another three possibilities in five minutes after that. When you can do that as a team, then I am a very proud manager.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger: “It would be nice if it was my goal but I know that the Watford player touched the ball so, for me, it doesn’t matter. We won the three points and that’s the most important thing. The goal meant a lot to me because these sorts of games can make the difference at the end of the season.”
Memphis Depay: “I enjoyed the goal a lot, of course. I like to score goals. It was important for me to score a goal when I got a chance. I was happy. It was a nice moment [to celebrate with the fans].”
PLAYERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Ashley Young – @youngy18
Great being back at Vicarage Road today, thanks to all the @WatfordFC fans for the warm welcome. Big three points for us and team spirit. #mufc
David De Gea – @D_DeGea
If you fight until the end, you end up finding a reward! C’mon @manutd.
Phil Jones – @PhilJones4
Very important 3 points today in a tough game. Big game ahead at Old Trafford Wednesday night! @ManUtd
Ander Herrera – @AnderHerrera
What a team spirit! 3 fantastic points, I hope the injury is as small as possible.
Juan Mata – @juanmata8
Not the prettiest game, but 3 very important points straight after the international break! @ManUtd #teamspirit
Bastian Schweinsteiger – @BSchweinsteiger
What a dramatic end of this match. So happy about our last-minute victory! #mufc
Marcos Rojo – @marcosrojo5
Happy with another victory! #ManUnited #RojoIsRed
Wayne Rooney – @WayneRooney
Well done today lads big 3 points. @BSchweinsteiger congrats on your 1st goal.
Rio Ferdinand – @rioferdy5
What a result for @ManUtd ….late winner…could this be the catalyst to go on a major march towards the title….??
Gary Neville – @GNev2
Yesssssssssssss get in!!!!