Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling scored to give Manchester United a 2-1 at Watford on Saturday to give the Red Devils their second straight win of the season. Contributing writer, Nathan Quao, of Citi Sports, notes a few pointers from the tie.
Jekyll and Hyde from Man United
Manchester United were good and bad in the same 90 minutes and that may leave followers of the team a little worried as the league takes shape and the matches get more difficult.
The first half started slowly for the Red Devils but as soon as they settled down, they began showing what they could do and it was interesting seeing that they took the lead via a set-piece situation against Watford.
The team showed ease and some comfort and could have added more before the first half ended.
However, the bad side came up when they backed off and allowed Watford to get into the game and create chances. The home side passed with better conviction and their characteristic combative and high-charge features became more apparent.
Today, the victory went the way of Manchester United but on another day, the result may be different and the players need to understand that a football match is played over 90 minutes.
They need to keep their levels high all game to ensure that there is no way back for the opposition.
More killer instinct is needed
The nervy end to the tie could have been avoided had there been a better performance in front of goal especially with the score at 2-0 for Manchester United.
Lukaku and Smalling (who scored a wonderful goal after controlling with his chest and volleying it home) had given the team the lead and the rest of the team including Pogba, Sanchez and Martial could have extended the margin to knock the stuffing out of the Hornets.
But that did not happen.
A combination of poor decision making from Man United and very good defending from Watford always gave the home team a fighting chance they almost took with both hands.
Such moments of discomfort need to be avoided totally. Chances need to be buried. Opponents need to be put away very well to make statements.
There is quality in the team to find goals on the break so it is a bother when defences are stretched and nothing comes out of the acres that emerge on the counter.
Football is a cruel game and one day, the inability to put a game to bed will the difference between three and zero points and who knows, a very important victory will be lost because opportunities were not buried.
The next step awaits
A return to Old Trafford is what the next round presents and Wolves will be the opposition. It is vital for the positives from the win at Watford to be echoed and for the negatives to be worked on.
The major challenge will be the loss of Nemanja Matic to a red card. He worked really well with Marouane Fellaini against the Hornets and Jose Mourinho will have to see what combinations he must create in midfield to help get a good result in the next round.
The defence can still get better especially Ashley Young. His awareness must be sharpened when he is on the defensive else he will get himself into trouble.
Paul Pogba should influence games stronger now. It is true that most often, he will look for movement ahead of him to lay a pass and get something going but his ability and skill set also give him the chance to fashion out his own chances.
In the second half at Watford, he got a chance to make use of a 1 v 1 situation but his many step-overs amounted to zero and the ball was lost.
He has what it takes to be a real game-changer and he should do that a lot more.
A huge mention to David De Gea for the wonderful save close to the end of the game at Watford. That was a huge reminder of what he had in his locker and he should keep doing his job especially as the Champions League returns during the week.