Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrated his first game as permanent Manchester United manager with a 2-1 Premier League win over Watford at Old Trafford on Saturday as his team moved back into the top four.
It was a far from impressive performance from United but goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial earned the victory which moved them up to fourth in the table, level on points with third-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
After a slow start, United took the lead in the 28th minute when Luke Shaw played a delightful through ball into the path of Rashford who clipped it past advancing Watford keeper Ben Foster.
Watford enjoyed plenty of possession in United’s half and looked dangerous when breaking without causing David De Gea too much work.
United’s main problem was their midfield which barely operated as a unit. Neither the deep-lying Nemanja Matic nor Paul Pogba, in an advanced role, were anywhere near their best and that left the only effective route down the flanks.
It was from a burst down the right wing that United made sure of the points with Martial’s strike in the 72nd minute.
Substitute Jesse Lingard’s low cross caused Martial and Foster to tangle for the ball, which fell kindly for the Frenchman who hooked home United’s second.
Watford got some reward for their positive approach when Abdoulaye Doucoure slotted home in the 90th minute after an exchange of passes with Isaac Success.
“We were awful in the second half, we were lucky with the result,” said Shaw, one of United’s better performers.
“The most important thing is the three points. We need to forget about the game today because we were not at our best at all,” added the England left back.
Norwegian Solksjaer, handed a three-year contract on Thursday, has led United to 15 wins in 20 matches in all competitions since taking over as caretaker manager in December.
Man City win 2-0 at Fulham to go back top
Manchester City returned with a swagger from the international break on Saturday, resuming their quest for four trophies with another dominant 2-0 win at Fulham that thrust them back to the top of the Premier League.
On the afternoon that Huddersfield Town were relegated and Manchester United celebrated the full-time managerial appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a 2-1 win over Watford, City again demonstrated why they remain the league’s benchmark.
Bernardo Silva scored for the third game in a row and Sergio Aguero extended his league-leading tally to 19 in a dazzling early spell, allowing the champions to ease to a seventh straight league victory while never hitting the heights.
It restored City’s advantage at the top, one point ahead of Liverpool on 77 points with both sides having played 31 games, but Juergen Klopp’s men could return to the summit with a win over third-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.