Manchester United 1-0 Watford: Player Ratings

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 02: Juan Mata of Manchester United celebrates scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Watford at Old Trafford on March 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 02: Juan Mata of Manchester United celebrates scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Watford at Old Trafford on March 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images) /

Juan Mata’s sublime winner helped Manchester United record a fourth consecutive win in all competitions.

Manchester United beat Watford 1-0 in the Premier League on Wednesday. After an uneventful first half, United rallied in the second period and put the away side under pressure. The goal eventually came and, although it wasn’t a great game of football, there were a number of key performers on the night.

Mata, who has been in fine form during the last few weeks, provided the one real moment of quality in a game that was low on it. His compatriot, David De Gea, made some important saves. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, making his full Premier League debut, recovered from a shaky start and played well.

The victory puts United level on points with Manchester City, who do have one game in hand. In a crazy season, where it looked like United had nothing to play for in the league, back-to-back wins have ensured that March will go a long way to deciding who finishes in the top-four positions.

Here are the player ratings from the game.

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David De Gea: 7

The Spaniard is United’s best and most important player. In truth, Watford deserved to score on a couple of occasions before United eventually took the lead. Odion Ighalo fluffed his lines more than once, but De Gea also made one smart stop when the Nigerian was through on goal in the first half.

Guillermo Varela: 6

The Uruguayan is such a bright attacker but perhaps lacks a bit of defensive nous for the moment. His pace and dribbling make a real difference to United’s build-up play on the right flank. Varela did, however, play one clumsy back pass that bisected De Gea and Daley Blind, and presented Ighalo with another chance to score. Although he is still a little bit raw and unpolished, Varela is a promising talent and deserves more games at right-back.

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Timothy Fosu-Mensah: 6.5

For an 18-year-old making his first start in the league, particularly against a strike partnership as testing as Ighalo and Troy Deeney, Fosu-Mensah played well. He gave the ball away needlessly early on and got booked for a poor challenge moments later, but it was a mark of his resilience that he remained unperturbed, put in some crunching tackles and helped United keep a clean sheet. Fosu-Mensah is one of the most highly rated prospects in United’s academy and, on this evidence, has all the attributes needed to make it to the top.

Daley Blind: 5

This was the Dutchman’s worst performance in a United shirt. That, however, is a sign of how important Blind has been for United this season. Usually so composed – and one of the most technically assured players in the Premier League – the 25-year-old played a number of sloppy passes and nearly saw one of his clearances rebound into the net for what would have been a comedic goal. With Chris Smalling and Michael Carrick both missing from the squad, maybe Blind felt a bit of added pressure in leading United’s back line.

Marcos Rojo: 6

The Argentine still looks a little rusty having recently returned from a long-term injury. In the first half, he looked set to launch a United counter-attack but dallied on the ball, lost it and was forced to concede a free-kick in a dangerous area. Not long before half-time, Rojo conceded possession to Ighalo and saw the Nigerian race clear to have a shot on goal. He, did, however, put in a few teasing crosses before he was substituted on account of fatigue.

Morgan Schneiderlin: 7

When fit and used properly, the Frenchman is one of the finest defensive midfielders in football. Against Watford, Schneiderlin did nothing fancy but broke play up nicely, passed the ball reasonably well and went close with a looping volley in the first half. After being in and out of the team earlier in the season, it finally appears that Schneiderlin, based on his display vs. Watford, has now been handed a prominent role in this United team.

Ander Herrera: 6.5

The Spaniard is a delightful player to watch at his best. Against Watford, who pressed unusually high up the pitch to begin with, Herrera found it difficult to dictate proceedings as he did vs. Arsenal. However, he remained energetic, industrious and one brilliant piece of skill – a Croqueta, Andres Iniesta’s signature move – illustrated how good he is on the ball.

Anthony Martial: 6

The Frenchman missed United’s last two games with a hamstring injury. He lined up on the right wing for United against Watford but looked isolated at times and couldn’t impact the game. When he moved up front midway through the second half, the match changed entirely. United went on the front foot and, in a central area, Martial’s trademark jinking dribble resulted in the free-kick that Mata scored from.

Juan Mata: 8 

The Spaniard is enjoying a fine run of form at the moment. Against Watford, he was quiet in the first half but livened up in the second period. In a game that lacked real quality, Mata provided one moment of inspiration to seal all three points. His excellent free-kick left Heurelho Gomes helpless in the Watford goal. When Mata was substituted after picking up a knock, the Old Trafford crowd fittingly chanted his name.

Memphis Depay: 6

The Dutchman put in two of his best performances in a United shirt last week vs. FC Midtjylland and Arsenal. Against Watford, though, despite looking bright, Memphis was wasteful in his shooting and crossing. Far too often he cuts in and shoots (aimlessly) from outside the penalty area. One such effort vs. Watford went out for a throw-in. The 22-year-old has been much better for United in the last few games, but his display on Wednesday night showed there is still work to do.

Marcus Rashford: 7

In a strange way, this was the most impressive of Rashford’s three games for United. Despite going goalless for the first time in his senior career, the 18-year-old defended brilliantly from the front, won a number of free-kicks deep inside the Watford half and, when Louis van Gaal made a tactical change and swapped him with Martial, he went on a few darting runs on the right wing.


Matteo Darmian: 6

The Italian, who was returning from a dislocated shoulder, replaced Rojo after 70 minutes at left-back. He was tidy, didn’t make any mistakes and looked solid enough.

Jesse Lingard: 6

The 23-year-old came on for the final 15 minutes, and his pace troubled Watford’s back line, who started to find it difficult to contend with Martial, Rashford, Memphis and Lingard all running at them.

Paddy McNair: N/A

The Northern Ireland international would perhaps have felt aggrieved at being left out for Fosu-Mensah. When he did come on with just minutes to go, McNair didn’t have much to do.

Next: Van Gaal: Dressing Room 'Full of Joy'

Led by the Spanish duo of De Gea and match-winner Mata, ably supported by Rashford, United picked up a hugely significant win vs. Watford and applied pressure to Manchester City and Arsenal, who both lost.