Memphis magic, Schweinsteiger luck sees Man Utd sting Hornets
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | November 21, 2015
Watford 1-2 Manchester United
- Memphis makes scoring return for Red Devils
- De Gea makes second-half saves but beaten by Deeney penalty
- Hornets sting Van Gaal’s team late on
- Schweinsteiger forces Deeney into own-goal at death
- Man Utd go top of Premier League for time being
Slice of luck for Schweinsteiger
Manchester United temporarily climbed top of the Premier League with a fortunate 2-1 victory over promoted Watford at Vicarage Road, as Bastian Schweinsteiger forced Hornets captain Troy Deeney into a late and decisive own-goal.
Memphis Depay’s early strike for a long time looked like it would settle this contest, but a rash tackle on Watford striker Odion Ighalo from Red Devils sub Marco Rojo put three points in peril.
Deeney levelled from the spot, but then turned in Schweinsteiger’s cross-shot at the other end to leave the Hornets stung at the death. This sort of fortuitous victory in ‘Fergie-time’ is the stuff countless Premier League titles are made of, and Coral now go 4/1 on Man Utd being champions again.
Walking in Watford doesn’t matter for Memphis
Depay hadn’t kicked a Premier League football since being subbed at half-time during Manchester United’s miserable 3-0 defeat at Arsenal at the start of October, but Louis van Gaal dropping him elicited a response when restored to the starting XI at Watford.
The manager wanted more from Memphis, and he certainly got it here with a stunning opener on his first league start for some six weeks.
Dutch attacker Depay delivered for the Red Devils at Vicarage Road, netting after 10 minutes but, despite drawing level through Deeney’s penalty, the Hornets were stung by another of English football’s elite.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ side lost to nil against fellow Premier League heavyweights Arsenal and Manchester City earlier in the season, so followed suit when paired with another of this term’s title contenders.
Red Devils short of options
Illness or injury prevented Man Utd boss Van Gaal from fielding Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and James Wilson, so Memphis’ return was one borne of necessity.
Basque Country native and box-to-box midfielder Ander Herrera teed up his Red Devils colleague with a cross from deep, which Memphis duly fired into the top corner beyond Heurelho Gomes.
Juan Mata had earlier put another ball in from the right, which just evaded the Netherlands international. Memphis later forced Watford goalie Gomes to tip round the post when stinging the Brazilian’s palms.
What first-half efforts the home side could muster went wildly off target. Record Watford sale Ashley Young made his first return to Hertfordshire since Aston Villa came calling, but was robbed in the right back berth allowing Hornets front two Deeney and Ighalo to interchange on the counter.
When the Nigeria international, who tops Watford’s scoring charts, pulled the trigger, he was off-balance and never really in a position to threaten David de Gea. Hornets summer signing Etienne Capoue later blasted way over from the edge of United’s box.
More Man Utd men injured
The only sore point for Van Gaal was losing Herrera to what looked like a tight hamstring midway through the first 45. Marcos Rojo came on for him, as the Red Devils went three at the back, and later lost injury-prone Phil Jones to a foot problem.
Watford also made a change, taking Jose Manuel Jurado off at half-time for Nathan Ake, but they were indebted to Gomes after lackadaisical play in midfield enabled Memphis to nip in and feed Jesse Lingard.
A late call-up by England for their midweek match with France, Old Trafford academy product Lingard brought out another fine save from the Hornets and former Spurs stopper.
Watford wake up
Deeney stung the palms of De Gea 10 minutes into the second-half following good work by substitute Ake, up from left back, and Ighalo’s hold-up play.
Flores saw more threat from Watford when Capoue got a near-post flick on a corner and another Ighalo effort had to be blocked by Morgan Schneiderlin.
De Gea had to throw a terrific plunging palm down to his right to stop Man Utd skipper Chris Smalling deflecting Almen Abdi’s effort past his own keeper.
Repeating his earlier attempt, Deeney shot strongly but straight at De Gea with 15 minutes left with momentum firmly in the buzzing Hornets’ favour.
Lingard might’ve sealed victory for Man Utd, but his attempted chip was too tame. Rojo’s clash with Ighalo was adjudged a foul by referee Bobby Madley and Deeney put the penalty away to seemingly ensure Watford took a point.
Schweinsteiger had other ideas, however, and his cross-shot from the most acute of angles was diverted into his own goal by Deeney. Gomes had done really well to turn Smalling’s set-piece effort away moments earlier.