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Matchday Review

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Wed 19 Feb At 12.02 PM

Match Review: Manchester United 1-0 Watford

- Chalobah returns

- Gomes makes his 100th Premier League appearance for Watford

- Rashford scores for the Red Devils

- Hornets finish 14th in the Premier League on 41 points

By Kevin Affleck

This typical end-of-season game, with very little riding on it except a few quid in prize money, will not linger long in the memory of many who were here, but for Nathaniel Chalobah it will mean the world as it will go down as the game when he relaunched his career.

Chalobah has not been seen since the home game against Manchester City in September (how long ago does that seem?) because of a fractured knee cap, and the last eight months must have seemed a very long, lonely and painful road at times, but all the hard work in the gym, all the pounding on the treadmill, all that extra work when others had left for the day must have seemed worth it when he got to play the last 18 minutes here. 

He wasn't able to prevent the Hornets from sliding to defeat but he will just be so relieved to be back playing and while his teammates could do with a break, he probably can't wait for next season to start. He was cheered by the lively away end the second he got stripped and ready to come on while his every touch was celebrated by the visiting fans. They know what a player for this club Chalobah could be. The return of the summer buy from Chelsea is like having a new signing and was the one big plus point from events at Old Trafford. 

While Chalobah is restarting his career, Michael Carrick is ending his and as bright and inventive as Watford were at times here, they didn't do enough to win the game and spoil Carrick's farewell. But the Hornets didn't deserve to lose either and a draw from a fairly lifeless game would probably have been about right.

The fact United picked up three bookings for cynical fouls said much about the threat the Hornets posed at times as they went in search of their first win at this place since 1978. United knew they were in a game, that's for sure, and Watford didn't let them have things all their own way. The Golden Boys were dead at buried after 32 minutes of the game at Vicarage Road earlier in the season, but they were always in this one, right until the end as they pushed for that elusive first away goal since January and that bit of extra Premier League prize money. 

But that break in front of goal, that slice of good fortune, is just eluding them and has done for some time on the road. They've now got the whole summer to figure that one out, to solve that conundrum, but this performance was at least something to build on, some hope to go into the summer with.

Watford were full of running and bursting with invention early on. They were hell-bent on pressing United in the middle third of the bench and then keen to set Richarlison, Gerard Deulofeu and Andre Gray haring forward at the earliest opportunity. The Hornets may have been playing with one up top but do not mistake that for a negative approach. With Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes part of a three-man midfield, this was a Watford team keen to come and have a right good go.

The fact Marcus Rojo picked up the first booking of the match for cynically bringing down the free-running Richarlison told you plenty about Watford's positive approach and which team was on the front foot.

But for all their positive intent, they did not really force Sergio Romero into a save until just before half-time when the Argentine produced one David de Gea would have been proud of, diving to his left to scoop a goal-bound header from Richarlison away for a corner. Richarlison couldn't believe he hadn't scored. 

United were hardly carving Watford open themselves and looked very much like they had next week's FA Cup final on their minds. The Hornets were keeping them very much at arm's length until United sprung the offside trap just after the half-hour mark. Watford were still reorganising after Adrian Mariappa had replaced the injured Christian Kabasele and perhaps a lack of cohesion meant the back-four unit did not move up as one following a raking pass over the top from Michael Carrick. Mata got in behind, advanced towards Gomes, drew the Brazilian before unselfishly passing the ball square for Marcus Rashford to slot into an empty net. It was all too easy and a very avoidable goal to concede.

The goal was a bit rough on Watford as, at the very least, they deserved to go into the break all-square. 

The second half was a bit of a slow burner. In fact, it never really got going. United never really pushed that hard for a killer second while Watford didn't really go after an equaliser with any real conviction. The Hornets did have the odd good spell in the second half but United, by hook or by crook, shut down any danger, not least when Ashley Young took one for the team by bringing down the overlapping Daryl Janmaat down the right and earning a booking. Rojo also produced one brilliant saving tackle to deny Richarlison.

Gracia slung on Troy Deeney just past the hour and reunited him with Gray up top. But they only got nine minutes together before Head Coach used his final sub to take off Gray and give Chalobah some long-awaited minutes. 

The Hornets huffed and puffed at the end and played some nice stuff in the middle third of the pitch, but they never really looked like salvaging an equaliser and the campaign ended in defeat, and a 14th-placed finish. Roll on the next one.

HORNETS: Gomes (GK) (C); Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele (Mariappa 21), Holebas; Hughes, Doucouré, Pereyra; Deulofeu (Deeney 63), Richarlison; Gray (Chalobah 72). 

Subs: Bachmann (GK), Sinclair, Lukebakio, Prödl.

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