Reaction and Player Ratings : Manchester United 0-0 Watford


It was a case of quantity over quality as Manchester United plodded to another painful embarrassing result at Old Trafford, giving a point to a poor Watford side, and giving the home support another reason to boo them at full-time after a goalless draw where they barely threatened to score.

Quantity over quality – just as on Wednesday, the opponent allowed the United players to have all of the ball, knowing they were never likely to take full advantage of possession in the way better opponents do.

Quantity over quality – it’s yet another game where United can claim to have had well over twenty shots on goal and yet another game where supporters won’t be able to point to many genuine chances.

Quantity over quality – the sheer amount of money on the pitch in terms of wage and transfer fee continues to serve up the worst Premier League performance over a season at the Theatre of Dreams, with no indication that the players are stung enough by the constant criticism to improve.

There was a sense of theatre to the occasion. The opponents were the same relegation-threatened team who had ended Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign with a humiliating defeat of these players in November. It was Solskjaer’s birthday, and his name rang out among the fans – his underperformance in the job looking more impressive by the week, his popularity surely higher than that of the players who never appeared to be personally insulted by what had happened at Vicarage Road.

The best that can be said for them since Ralf Rangnick’s arrival is that they look more like a cohesive team and that should be a terrible, terrible indictment for anyone lucky enough to pull on a red shirt. How could they see what should be the basic expectation as an improvement?

United started this season with a number of senior wide players; today, none of them started, and the width would have to be provided by Elanga and Fernandes as well as the full-backs. And, for a while, those two forwards were the most enterprising as the hosts looked as though they might strike early.

The first threat came in the 5th minute when Ronaldo did well to control a cross from Wan-Bissaka that was slightly behind him; but the shot could only hit the post.

Fernandes then had an effort that former Red Devils goalkeeper Ben Foster did well to stop with a strong arm; seven minutes later, he put an even better chance wide after firework by Pogba.

In between those efforts, Ronaldo had the ball in the net but was ruled offside; the legendary forward then created another chance for his compatriot when he rounded Foster, but Bruno could only head over.

All of this happened before the half-hour mark; Hodgson’s side were well-drilled enough to get through to half-time without any serious headaches, and with the pace of Sarr and Dennis always looked to pose a threat on the counter. There was a growing sense of frustration for Rangnick’s men, embodied by Ronaldo, who seemed to be going through the motions, which is even more concerning than when he is annoyed.

Ronaldo had valid reason to be annoyed when he was taken out from behind in the box; it was surely deemed that he had attempted to buy the penalty by gaining control of the ball when it was obvious the defender wouldn’t get there.

Within a minute of that indecision, Elanga fired wide. But the chances dried up. Rangnick rolled the dice. On came Sancho, Rashford and Shaw. With a bunch of out-of-form forwards, full-backs not renowned for their delivery, and a midfield of Pogba and Fernandes who have never looked like dictating a game in a pair or as individuals from that position (even against teams the quality of Watford), Hodgson barely had to break a sweat.

Jadon Sancho curled an effort wide in the last minute; in injury time, Fernandes thrashed a tame effort which was comfortable for Foster.

United were up against four players who were deemed not good enough for this club around a decade or so ago and all of them put on performances more befitting of the stage than any in a red shirt.

Ronaldo’s disinterest will surely be one of the most vivid talking points as he looks every inch a 37-year old but it is embarrassing, considering his generally decent goalscoring form since his return, that the spotlight will fall upon him when there are half a dozen players who should be in and around their peak and none of them could even control and dictate a game like this.

Nobody, though, is fooled by this squad. And today’s result & performance might have been infuriating but it was entirely predictable and in-keeping with what they deliver.

You can blame the owners for the general state of the club but the players have to carry the can for this latest embarrassment of a result against one of the league’s worst teams. And if we really can’t – if this is genuinely what we should expect from them – then doesn’t that say everything?

If this is the best that they can do then they’re simply just not good enough. If it’s not the best that they can do, if Old Trafford and a Manchester United shirt doesn’t turn them on in the same way as it does an opponent, then they don’t have the character to be at the club anyway. How many can you say who do?

Results don’t lie. United, who finished second last season, now face a hard reality – no Champions League football next season. That might become a relief if the next few weeks go as the opposite fixtures went in the autumn. It’s not good enough. These players are not good enough. It is ridiculous when an average performance from an ageing midfielder in Matic feels like the highlight.

The loudest cheers in the game were for a departed manager; the boos at full-time were not for the current one. The Old Trafford crowd knows exactly who to point the finger at.


De Gea 5

Wan-Bissaka 6

Lindelof 6

Varane 5

Telles 5

Fred 4

Matic 6

Pogba 4

Fernandes 5

Elanga 6

Ronaldo 4

Subs :

Sancho 5



Wayne Barton

Wayne is a writer and producer. His numerous books on Manchester United include the family-authorised biography of Jimmy Murphy. He wrote and produced the BT Sport films 'Too Good To Go Down' in 2018, and 'True Genius', in 2021, both adapted from his books of the same name. In 2015 he was described by the Independent as the 'leading writer on Manchester United' and former club chairman Martin Edwards has described him as 'the pre-eminent writer on the club'.

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