Manchester United continued their winning momentum and inched closer to the Top 4 as they ran out comfortable 2-0 winners over Watford on Saturday.

Manchester United extended their remarkable unbeaten league run to 16 games with relative ease and Jose Mourinho’s side convincingly beat Watford 2-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday. The result saw the Red Devils move closer to a place in the Top 4, as they sit just one point behind Liverpool who are fourth, and two adrift of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Manchester United were playing their final top flight game of the month and they signed off February in style with a win as comfortable as any in the Premier League recently. Having grown into the game slowly, Mourinho’s side took the lead midway through the first half with a superb move as Anthony Martial set Juan Mata up for a simple finish.

Onwards and upwards! (Photo courtesy - Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Onwards and upwards! (Photo courtesy – Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The Frenchman then doubled the tally early on in the second half with a brilliant solitary run as he finished a driving run into the Watford box with a neat finish past Heurelho Gomes in the 60th minute that eventually was the winner for Manchester United.

The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the major talking points to emerge from a stroll of a win for Manchester United on Saturday.

Manchester United Rediscover Their Swagger

Manchester United will not play another Premier League match until March 4 as they are scheduled to play in the FA Cup fifth round between the two legs of the Europa League Round of 32 before they play the EFL Cup final when the Red Devils will compete for a first silverware under Jose Mourinho in two weeks’ time.

Suffice to say, the Manchester United boss would have been eager to sign off from February with a win, and they did just that in some style. Manchester United were regular customers in the Watford box and threatened to test Heurelho Gomes on several occasions.

Talking about the numbers, Manchester United created a massive 21 chances to their visitors’ 7 while taking aim at the Hornets’ goal 23 times. The front four of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial combined well, with Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera contributing the attacking figures as well.

The match then ended on another high note for Manchester United, as the Red Devils became the first club in Premier League history to amass 2,000 points in the competition. Arsenal are next in line with 1,797 points which just goes to show their dominance since the competition was established in 1992.

The Juan Mata Show Was On Display

Juan Mata has well and truly established himself as a key figure for Manchester United under Jose Mourinho after it looked like he was under threat of losing his place in the side, and possibly even be out of Old Trafford after what had happened under the Portuguese at Chelsea.

It has been far from that this season, with Mourinho often relying on the Spain international to provide that creative spark. He started on the right for Manchester United on Saturday, but was given the freedom to roam all over the park and he made that count with his performance on the day.

He was a menace for Watford defenders all through the 90 minutes, who didn’t have the slightest of clue about marking him. That was because Mata was not only dangerous on the ball while combining magnificently with Mkhitaryan and the others, but also unpredictable off it, and his efforts were duly rewarded with a goal in the first half.

Time and again Mata has stood up to make himself count in attack for Manchester United, and just when many thought that his best days might be behind him he has established himself as an influential member of the Manchester United attack. Needless to say, the Spaniard will remain a pivotal figure for Mourinho as the Red Devils fight on all four fronts.

A Martial Resurgence In The Offing?

To say that it has been a tough season for Anthony Martial will be a gross understatement of the struggles the Frenchman has had to endure all through the campaign at Old Trafford.

Martial was the toast of the Manchester United supporters last season as he ended the campaign as the club’t top scorer with 17 goals in all competitions and gave a fitting reply to the skeptics who thought that the Red Devils had spent over the top on an unknown quantity.

However, after the highs of last season came the depressing lows of this with Martial regularly in and out of the side under Jose Mourinho. He has made only 10 starts for Manchester United this season, and without regular game time, the France international has failed to match the superlative displays from 2015/16.

But, after he was handed a rare start on Saturday, Martial showed Mourinho that he perhaps deserves better than just being used in a rotational role as constantly ran at the Watford defenders, was a pacy outlet for his attacking partners to play off and was a nuisance all through the game.

And he capped off a memorable performance by grabbing a goal and an assist to be the man of the match. Martial has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 appearances for Manchester United and at his best, it is hard to see how Mourinho can do without a player of his quality.

Bailly The Boss

What a signing has Eric Bailly been for Jose Mourinho. The Ivorian was another recent acquisition by Manchester United whose arrival was greeted with a lot of skepticism, and with very little known about the centre-back, it was said that the Red Devils might have taken a gamble too big.

However, Bailly has impressed everyone with his consistency and has rarely put a foot wrong in the season so far. Showing impeccable positioning skills along with great pace to take on the quickest of forwards, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that he has been a rock at the back for Manchester United.

On Saturday, he was on fire yet again as he successfully neutralised the threat of the Watford attacker, taking on the likes of Mauro Zarate, Troy Deeney, Etienne Capoue and M’Baye Niang with ease while also covering for his right-back Antonio Valencia at times.

Numbers prove that too, with Bailly winning all of aerial duels, winning 5 tackles and making 9 clearances. Signing Bailly, thus, might have been a masterstroke on the part of Mourinho, with the Ivory Coast international looking every bit the player Manchester United fans would want at the back.

Goalkeeping Brilliance On Both Ends Of The Pitch

Watford couldn’t compare much to Manchester United with respect to the effectiveness of attack in the final third, and they were opened up nicely in defence too. But, if there was one area where the Hornets could stand toe to toe with their hosts it was in goal.

Watford have goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was at another level altogether at Old Trafford as he repeatedly came up with world class saves that thwarted the Manchester United attack. And if not for the Brazilian, the scoreline could easily have been much more embarrassing for the visitors.

Gomes made a number of crucial saves throughout the match, but there were two of note that were right out the copybook of his opposite number David De Gea, as he denied Paul Pogba’s strong shot with a parry, and superbly blocked Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s strong header just a few moments before Mata scored the opener.

On the other end of the pitch, De Gea did have a quiet night with very little to do in the Manchester United goal but faced a big test of his concentration levels when Mauro Zarate sent a free kick on its way to the top corner.

However, the Spaniard was completely aware of the danger as he dived at full stretch to palm the ball away from danger and keep his side in the lead. That save ensured a well deserved tenth clean sheet in the Premier League and established just how important he continues to be for Manchester United.

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