Under the floodlights at an electric and buoyant Vicarage Road, some rare defensive mistakes proved costly for the Hornets with Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling finding the net for United. Andre Gray pulled a goal back in the second half but, despite Watford’s endeavour to equalise and possibly even win the game, Jose Mourinho’s men held on for their second consecutive away win.
So, who produced the standout displays in a valiant and relentless display from Javi Gracia’s Hornets?
Ben Foster: The 35-year-old was naturally put right to the test against such a quality strike force and overall dealt well with what was thrown at him. Could arguably have done better for Lukaku’s goal and distribution was questionable at times. Not his brightest performance this season, but not one to be ashamed of either. 6
Daryl Janmaat: Looked overrun with both Alexis Sanchez and Ashley Young providing a considerable threat down Watford’s right, and he didn’t have the attacking freedom he normally would due to the strength of the opposition. Substituted with 20 minutes to play as he looked unable to run any more. This won’t take away from his promising start to the campaign. 6
Craig Cathcart: The Northern Ireland international will have been keen to impress against his former club, and he did just that. An excellent last-ditch tackle prevented an almost certain goal in the second half. Struggled to compete aerially with Lukaku but kept him quiet in almost every other aspect of the game. 8
Christian Kabasele: Worked well with Cathcart to cope with his compatriot Lukaku and also produced another top emergency tackle, which is becoming quite the feature of Kabasele’s game. Should be knocking on Roberto Martinez’s door to make the next Belgium squad after five consecutive displays of defensive brilliance. 8
Jose Holebas: The Greek international had a rather peculiar evening. His crosses were either pinpoint or way off the mark, and he offered little contribution at the back as he was often caught in advanced positions up the pitch. Was still a threat going forward linking up with others down the left flank. 7
Will Hughes: Hailed as one of the fittest and most well-rounded players in the Watford squad, Hughes was a crucial component for Watford in this game. He had to track back to help Janmaat before darting upfield to support the Hornets’ counter attacks. Proved his quality adequately against such top opposition. 8
Abdoulaye Doucouré: The Frenchman had arguably the toughest job on the pitch, in man-marking compatriot Paul Pogba. Yet he rose to the challenge and made the going tough for Pogba all game long. Can take a lot of heart from this performance even if it was considerably more defence-orientated than usual. 7
Etienne Capoue: Doucouré’s midfield partner was the orchestrator in the middle for Watford, sitting at the base of all the Hornets’ attacks and recycling possession constantly. He played so many cross-field passes that a large number didn’t find the intended target, and this became a more pressing issue as the game progressed. 6
Roberto Pereyra: Had his work cut out as he seemed to be surrounded by at least four opposition players every time he received the ball, though the Argentine did remarkably well to cope with the pressure. While his quick feet are a delight to be hold, it would be nice to see a more direct approach from Pereyra in order to supply the strikers in the middle. 7
Troy Deeney: The captain was deployed as more of a team player than a goalscorer, however he came close to finding the net with a well-struck effort in the first half. Victor Lindelöf and Chris Smalling — and often Marouane Fellaini — were tough opposition for Deeney as he fell short in numerous aerial duels. 6
Andre Gray: Simply couldn’t compete physically with United’s centre-backs and was scarcely granted the opportunity to run in behind. His goal was the saving grace of his performance. 7
Kiko Femenía: The Spaniard was introduced to amplify Watford’s attacking threat, and Kiko’s blistering pace and accurate crossing helped in those efforts. Widely considered a better option than Janmaat, the 27-year-old will be hoping to reestablish his place in the starting 11 in the near future. 7
Adam Masina: Like Kiko, the full-back was brought on in the dying stages to help Watford going forward. His only contribution of note was a sprint race down the left flank with Lukaku, which he lost. 6
Isaac Success: The Nigerian was perhaps given the green light too late in the game, as it seemed the encounter was crying out for someone with his abundance of technical ability and physical prowess. Entered the box with some silky dribbling in the final moments only to be dispossessed having taken too many touches. Another player that will be looking for more game time soon. 6