Coming off the international break, Manchester United played a crucial match to their Barclays Premier League campaign against Watford. First team selections were made difficult for Louis Van Gaal in light of injuries to Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial. Van Gaal gave Memphis Depay the start in place of Martial. It proved to be a pivotal swap in the side. Phil Jones started at right back, as Antonio Valencia continues to recover from surgery and Matteo Darmian has fallen out of favor. Chris Smalling and Daley Blind continue their run as the tandem of centerbacks. Ashley Young started at left back. Ander Herrera made a rare start, joined in the midfield by Juan Mata, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Morgan Schneiderlin. Memphis and Jesse Lingard played up front as strikers.
United dominated possession and converted that early advantage into a brilliant goal. In the eleventh minute, United built up on the right flank with inter play between Ashley Young and Ander Herrera, leading to a curled cross from Herrera toward the center of the box. Memphis latched onto the cross, placing his shot deftly into the top right corner of the net with his weak foot. It was just the beginning of a great return to the side. Memphis would produce more danger to the Watford net in the first half. He dribbled the Watford defense with Jesse Lingard making a run ahead of him. He looked off the pass and struck a shot low into the corner that was parried wide for a corner kick by the keeper. He also produced a scoring chance for Lingard. After stealing a wayward pass from Etienne Capoue, he dribbled the defense briefly before playing Lingard through on goal with a wonderfully weighted pass. The Watford keeper saved Lingard's attempt, pushing it out of bounds for a corner kick.
United's defense was solid for the most part, but still required a great performance from man of the match David De Gea. De Gea kept Watford's striker Troy Deeney from scoring on a few occasions to keep United in the lead especially in the second half. On two occasions Deeney's shot flew right at the United keeper, but still required careful handling to corral the driven shots. Almen Abdi's effort required De Gea's most impressive save as it deflected late in its path off Chris Smalling requiring De Gea to scramble and protect his post.
Lingard was the beneficiary of a brilliant one time through ball from Daley Blind, playing the United frontman in behind the defense with only the goalkeeper to beat. The goalkeeper charged the ball, leaving Lingard with a chip shot as the only opportunity on goal. Yet again, Lingard's attempt could not best the keeper. It appeared that United might see the game out at 1-0 or pay dearly for their inability to score a second goal. With only 4 minutes left in regulation time, Watford's Odion Ighalo received a pass in the United penalty area with his back towards goal and Marcos Rojo on his heels. Rojo made a poor decision to tackle the Ighalo instead of maintaining his position, standing him up, and allowing a supporting United defender to tackle back. He pulled Ighalo down in the box for a Watford penalty kick. Troy Deeney strode to the spot and his attempt from the 12-yard spot beat De Gea high as the Spaniard guessed the correct side of the net.
United renewed their efforts, however, avoiding discouragement and earning two late corner kicks. The first, a well struck cross to Chris Smalling, who heel flicked the ball into the top corner, but saved by Gomes for another corner kick. This next corner would produce another chance on goal. After the ball was whipped in, it was headed back towards Memphis, but the ball didn't settle just right for the Dutch youngster. It was recovered by United and cycled to Lingard, who fired a shot low to the ground again saved by Gomes. The rebound, however, fell to the feet of Bastian Schweinsteiger at the back post. Schweinsteiger's goal was ruled a Deeney own goal, as the Watford striker's sliding attempt to prevent a goal carried the ball across the goal line. The game finished at 2-1 putting United temporarily in first at the time, but ultimately in second behind Leicester City.
United have a difficult week ahead, as they face PSV at Old Trafford on Wednesday before playing Leicester City on Saturday at King Power Stadium. Wayne Rooney may be available for both games, but both Ander Herrera and Phil Jones are doubtful to be ready for either game due to the injuries they sustained in the match against Watford. Anthony Martial's status also remains a mystery. United play PSV on Wednesday at 2:45pm on the Fox Sports Network.