Manchester United kept their Champions League hopes alive as they narrowly beat Watford 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to a late free-kick from Juan Mata.
- Manchester United 1 Watford 0
- Hornets miss plethora of chances
- De Gea makes three crucial saves
- Mata scores from free-kick late on
- United level with fourth-placed City
The Hornets had the better chances at Old Trafford but failed to convert any of their 14 attempts and only managed three shots on target.
That wastefulness came back to bite them seven minutes from time when Mata curled a free-kick beyond Heurelho Gomes from just outside the area to secure back-to-back wins for Louis van Gaal’s side, who moved level with fourth-placed Manchester City on 47 points.
The visitors were fortunate not to go behind early on when Jose Holebas miscued his clearance into the hands of his own keeper in windy conditions.
Anthony Martial was then presented with the first chance of the game on nine minutes, but failed to direct his header on target at the back post from Ander Herrera’s cross.
Daley Blind was lucky not to be punished for his numerous errors on the night, the first coming on 18 minutes when he gifted possession straight to Odion Ighalo, who tested David de Gea from outside the area.
Morgan Schneiderlin went close at the other end moments later with a rasping volley from 20 yards out that flashed just past the left post.
Ighalo then came within inches of breaking the deadlock on 27 minutes from Troy Deeney’s header, but the striker sent his snap-shot on the turn just wide of the goal.
De Gea had to be alert to keep out the Nigerian six minutes before the break after he had raced away down the right flank as United gave away possession once again.
Quique Flores’ men continued to take the game to the Red Devils after the break and Sebastian Prodl was denied on the goalline by Marcus Rashford following a corner, before Etienne Capoue flashed a shot narrowly over the crossbar from range.
The hosts would begin to probe as the second half wore on and Mata fizzed a shot into the gloves of Gomes and sent another effort wide of the mark soon afterwards, but another Blind blunder almost let in Nordin Amrabat, who just failed to turn the ball home, with Prodl then heading wide a corner from Ben Watson.
The Hornets were made to pay for their numerous missed chances late on as Martial won a free-kick just outside the area to the right and Mata stepped up to send the ball into the far top corner to snatch all three points.