Surely this will be the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It was an absolute train wreck from start to finish. Sarr had two bites of the cherry from the penalty spot and missed both. King would eventually give Watford a deserved lead and Sarr would extend it. Van De Beek and Martial entered the fray for McTominay and Rashford. The former of the substitutes in would get United’s solitary goal, with the first header scored by the club in the Premier League this season. Maguire would get two yellow cards in quick succession to stem the comeback. The Red Devils still had chances but once Joao Pedro made it 3 late on, there was no way back. Emmanuel Dennis would cap it all off in what was a new nadir for Solskjaer’s time at United. The fact it could be seen that Bruno was instructing the fans to direct their anger towards the players rather than the manager when they went over at the end shows how much the tide has turned against the man in the hottest seat in England.
It just seems to get worse and worse for the Man Utd captain. Gary Neville’s quotes in the Daily Mail regarding Maguire and his compatriot, Luke Shaw, suffering from burnout, emotionally and physically, from the Euros was contributing to the wretched form they have showcased so far this season. Yet, in 11 days, it will be December, almost 5 months post the culmination of the European Championships. It is getting quite far removed from that tournament so the excuse of this is becoming less and less of an excuse. Quite frankly, apart from a decent spell from February to April, when he got injured vs Aston Villa, Maguire has been mostly average in his time with the Red Devils.
Oddly enough today, if it weren’t for him, it is likely that United would have found themselves behind earlier than they did. He made a couple of vital blocks to ensure the Hornets would not go ahead before they eventually would in Joshua King. But, the lack of protection from the midfield, whilst prominent throughout him being here, has been increasingly lacking this season. Lacking to the extent of which you would expect of a team who play 1v1 and a high line. This is not conducive to the way in which to get the best out of Maguire. He is more comfortable in a mid to low block and/or with bodies around him. As soon as the game became stretched you feared for Maguire. Both of his yellow cards came in situations where his lack of pace was just exposed more and more. It was something that was inevitable.
Back to Basics?
The pre match quotes from Solskjaer before the visit to Vicarage Road said that they had been working on getting back to basics and being a difficult team to beat rather than the open nature that has been visible since the start of the season. It was the opposite in the opening first half of the game. It was quite unbelievable the frantic way that Man Utd went about navigating this away fixture. The build up to the two missed penalties by Ismalia Sarr summed up the 45 minutes. Bruno hacking the ball away and slicing it into the danger area. McTominay’s slip meant he fell into Joshua King. It was a game marked with several mistakes on the ball, from the aforementioned Bruno, Matic, McTominay, Shaw and plenty of others. It has been a problem for United for all the years under Ole but today was by far the worst I have seen under his tenure. The lack of care taken when passing the ball, whether it be due to complacency or nervousness, it was quite ridiculous the amount of turnovers that was being committed by the men in blue and white. What made it even worse was the fact that it wasn’t turnovers from trying to do anything expansive or break down a deep block, it was just simple passes going awry and not getting to their man.
The true basics of this United team is that they thrive more in chaos. And we saw that in the second half. It was quite the statement from Ole that he took off Rashford and McTominay for Martial and Van De Beek. It smacked of a man looking for anything to work. It did in part as Van De Beek looked to be involved in everything good that United were able to produce. Alongside the goal, a slide rule pass to Ronaldo should have been converted to equalise and who knows what might have happened then? Alas, it was saved and the game lost from there.