A masterful display from United number 18 Bruno Fernandes propelled the club to a convincing 3-0 win over the Hornets on Sunday afternoon. Our new Portuguese magnifico pulled all the strings and had a hand in all 3 goals, one expertly taken by himself. After a very shaky first 15 minutes, which included a multitude of errors from numerous players, the team eventually began to settle down and gain possession of the ball, even if they didn’t dominate territory on the field for a vast majority of the game.
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For the game, United had an xG of 2.3 to Watford’s 0.3, suggesting it was a comfortable win for United due to the chances they created. The Red Devils were attacking a lot down the left hand side of the field, with actually 50% of them from that flank. This was due to Fernandes and Martial often drifting over to that side to create an overload alongside James who started out on that wing. I don’t think it can be overstated enough just how important Bruno was to the whole performance of the team. He was so progressive on the ball, looking to play forward at all times. 45.9% of his total passes were forwards! This is very high, even for an attacking midfielder, such a positive mindset showed on the rest of the team, and it is no coincidence that Daniel James had his best game for months. Another positive is how close Bruno Fernandes was throughout the game to Martial, which meant the striker was not as isolated as he usually is. This showed as the pass that created Martial’s goal was directly from Bruno as he played a lovely through ball for the Frenchman.
Another thing that was a marked improvement on the game was the location from where the shots were being taken. This season, United have taken nearly half their shots from outside the box, which generally are low chance shots. In this game however, 71% of their shots were taken from within the 18 yard box. Despite this domination of both possession and chance creation, they gave up territory of the pitch. Only 22% of the game was played in Watford’s third of the field. United were able to exploit the space in behind of Watford who played with a very high line, with all three of their goals coming from fast break opportunities; in fact United had 5 counter attacks, 4 of which resulted in a shot, a first since the Louis van Gaal days. Watford’s high press caused United all sorts of problems in the first 15 minutes, the pinnacle of which resulting in a mix up between Maguire and Matic which let Deeney through on goal, to only be expertly stopped by Luke Shaw, who himself had another excellent performance.
As we can see from the players’ average positions, all of James, Martial and Fernandes were playing on the left hand side of the pitch for a lot of the game as they overloaded on that side. Interestingly, Greenwood’s average position was very deep as he looked to get on the ball a lot, particularly in the first half. In the second half though, it seemed as though Solskjaer instructed Mason to hold out wider to the touchline, and this brought the benefit of allowing Bruno some more space centrally as less United bodies were occupying the space.
Overall, it was a good win for United, and aside from the first 15 minutes, it was quite a convincing performance from the Red Devils, with plenty of chance creation and good counter attacking sequences. Luke Shaw had another excellent game as he had a resurgence in form, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka was quietly consistent as he has been all season. Hopefully, we see more of this on Thursday!