Manchester United had to dig deep yesterday afternoon to leave Vicarage Road with three points. With key injuries coming out of the international break you would have been forgiven for thinking that Man United would struggle away at Watford. No Rooney and Martial left United with no recognisable striker on the park against a side that has been difficult to break down since their promotion to the Premier League.
After conceding to a late Troy Deeney penalty it seemed that United’s failure to take advantage of their possession was going to cost them two vital points. However, Van Gaal’s men lifted the tempo after conceding late on and battled their way towards a 90th minute winner. It was the type of goal that brought back memories of the club’s days under Sir Alex Ferguson. ‘Fergie Time’ was a real danger to any side that thought they had managed to see off his United side and yesterday the players took the fans on a nostalgia trip to those days with their late win.
Does this prove that this side is now capable of battling for the Premier League title like the old United did so regularly? In recent years a late capitulation like yesterday would’ve lead to a disappointing draw as the fans would have left ruing missed opportunities. What made it even more impressive were the extenuating circumstances leading into and during the game. With their captain absent, Martial missing, only for Herrera and Jones to leave the field with injuries it seemed like it was all going wrong for United. The Troy Deeney penalty was the icing on the cake. With little time left on the clock and an abundance of youth on the pitch it didn’t seem like it was to be United’s day. Heading into the 90th minute United had Paddy McNair, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira on the pitch, all three academy graduates with only a handful of games between them this season, and even in their United careers. Those aren’t the kind of names that you expect to have the experience to lead you to a late win away at a difficult ground.
It was Pereira’s smart cut back and Lingard’s shot that caused Gomes enough trouble to let Schweinsteiger pounce and have his effort carried into the net by Deeney. It secured three points that saw United go top of the table until the later games had been played. Its three points that showed this United side is capable of digging deep and are not to be written off. Its three points that shows that United’s youngsters are ready to play their part when needed.
There were also impressive individual performances that will put a smile on United fans faces. Memphis Depay had his best showing in the Premier League for United. After not featuring at all in any of the last 4 league matches it was his finish that opened the scoring at Vicarage Road. He also put a chance on a plate for Lingard whose shot was saved. It was the type of pass that in previous matches that he was missing or making the wrong decision with. He looked more like a player who knows he has to fight for his spot in that first team because there are plenty there ready to keep it from him. This should be an encouraging sight for the Manchester club.
There will still be a worry that United weren’t capable of putting the game to bed earlier after dominating possession for the vast majority of the tie. But, the confidence that a late win like that can bring to a side cannot be underestimated. It was the great United sides’ calling card, until that final whistle blows there isn’t a game we are out of. This team is still a very long way off the quality of its predecessors, but the signs are encouraging. If the club can continue to show that kind of resolve and determination going forward they should keep themselves in the running for the title when many had already written them off.