Manchester United closed out the season with a 1-0 win over Watford at Old Trafford on Sunday. Marcus Rashford scored what was probably the easiest goal of his career in the first half to give the Red Devils the victory ahead of the FA Cup final on May 19.
Contributing writer, Nathan Quao, put down a few thoughts on the match.
All round uncertainty on the day
The victory aside, the team’s performance on the day, was quite unstable. Maybe it was the fact that the minds of the players were drifting towards the cup final or maybe the holidays but there was not a lot of solidity in their game.
Scott McTominay was not too great at keeping the ball and that allowed Watford to play the forward pass and turn the United defence over on a number of occasions. Add Juan Mata to that guilty party and it meant that Watford caught Man United out of shape so many times. The only saving grace was that the Hornets could not sting at all.
On the attacking front, the Red Devils did not sync too well despite the best efforts of Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Rashford. When compared to what happened against West Ham, today’s showing was better but it still could not cut open the Watford defence at will.
With one week to the cup final, the manager must try and find a formula that allows the team to create and finish the chances off against Chelsea.
The Blues will want to find some solace to soothe the pain of missing out on Champions League next football and so, they will go for the jugular.
Man United need to be ready to hit back and that can only be done with some more precise attacking play.
Rashford makes a cup final case?
Despite the below-par output in terms of a collective attacking sense, Marcus Rashford deserves some praise. He reacted well to his role today and he was seen in more central positions than against West Ham.
The goal was very easy to score but the awareness of the Watford defence and the timing of his run to receive Mata’s pass was good.
He appeared in similar positions later in the game but he could not score.
The downside of his game was the absence of good decisions later in the game when Watford were very stretched. He could have squared the ball a few times but in his defence, not a lot of bodies followed him into the penalty box.
Between now and the cup final, he has to prove to the manager that he can provide a different dynamic to the team should Lukaku fail to make the team for the cup final.
Classy Carrick bows out
Finally, Michael Carrick, the last member of the great 2008 Champions League-winning team hangs his boots and he can leave with a lot of smiles.
It was befitting that he got to lead the team for the last time and his long pass to Mata who set up Rashford for the only goal of the game highlighted the brilliance he had showed since his entry in 2006.
Carrick will be remembered as a very lovely character and a player who lifted Man United to do big things.
He unleashed the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo down the flanks and channels in the magical 07/08 season and he set up goals for many players in that time and even after.
And he got his fair share of goals too. The most memorable? The one against AS Roma in 2007 at Old Trafford that started the now-famous 7-1 rout. It was great, classy and very technical. A right-footed sweep of the ball into the Roma net past a rooted Doni in post after 11 minutes.
The lights have now been turned down on Carrick’s playing career and it is wonderful to see that he will be be part of the coaching team to hand out his knowledge to the next generation and some of his current team-mates.
He has the right spirit and he has the medals to show for everything he has done in the game.
He should remind the present crop to aim for such medals if Man United will get back to the top of the English football tree anytime soon.
With that coming from him, perhaps the players will assimilate the rallying cry a bit better and get down to winning more titles.
The RoM 2018-19 Season Preview is available for just £6. It includes an EXCLUSIVE interview with Juan Mata, a Q&A with the country's top journalists, articles by brilliant United writers, and so much more. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.