Marco Silva felt the heavy-looking nature of the defeat to Manchester United was a hard one to swallow, believing it did not reflect the part his side played in a slow-burner of a game at Vicarage Road that caught fire at the end. He felt his side started and finished the better of the two sides, that they could have been playing against ten men for last 13 minutes and that the game was decided by “detail” and “individual mistakes”.
Silva's gameplan went out of the window after half-hour when the Hornets, who hadn't done a lot wrong, found themselves three goals down. It was always going to be an uphill task thereafter, but instead of opting for damage limitation they staged a thrilling comeback in the second half, which confirmed this team has plenty of character and fortitude about it.
For a brief moment a second 3-3 draw at Vicarage Road this season against a Champions League club looked a distinct possibility but ultimately they came up just short. The Golden Boys had left themselves too much to do, too big a mountain to climb. The damage had been done in the first third of the game.
“It was a hard result for us,” said the Head Coach.
“I believe we start very well. In the first 20 minutes we controlled our opponent and we had some moments The game was really in the balance and nobody created chances, but we had two dangerous crosses. But they scored the first time they went in our and box and in ten minutes they scored three goals.
“That was really hard for us. We knew that Man United would be strong on the counter-attack but nobody expected that at that moment. Individual mistakes made the difference for us in the end.”
Silva felt the problem was psychological rather than tactical or physical.
“It's clear to me that our players were a little but nervous and a little bit anxious,” he said.
“The third goal is a good example of that: we had two or three chances to solve the problem but we made easy mistakes. Maybe they felt the pressure. It's not normal. Maybe it's because we played against a big team. Some of our team play for the first time against Man United. We will talk and analyse this together.”
Watford, to their immense credit, didn't throw the towel in and kept prompting and probing, searching for a route back into the match. In doing so, they became only the third side this season to score more than one goal in a game against United.
“We tried to play our game and solve the problem,” said Silva.
“We tried to react and had a chance [before half-time] to score through Richarlison. I told our players [at half-time] that is not our image, not our character. We had 45 minutes to play. I told my players to play like the game is 0-0 and forget about the result. Individual detail made the difference, I'm sure about that.”
The second-half turnaround was inspired by the introduction of the three second-half substitutes. Roberto Pereyra won the penalty Troy Deeney converted and then Andrè Carrillo provided the assist for the second.
“They did well,” said Silva. “They had a good impact on the team but we are talking about three qualities players They really helped the team. We changed the formation. It's what I expect players of that quality.”
Watford have now scored three goals against Liverpool, two against Arsenal, two against Chelsea and two against Manchester United, proving they can give the best the league has to offer a serious run for its money.
“When we scored the first goal we were already better,” said Silva.
“We scored the penalty and, at that moment, it looked like a second yellow card for Rojo. If it's 11 against 10 it would be very difficult for them. It was difficult anyway because we scored the second, but if it's 11 against 10 it would be even better.
“We believed even more at 3-2, made more problems, but there was one counter-attack against us, where we weren't in a good balance, and we should do things differently. Tom [Cleverley] should stop the counterattack, that's when you need to do a tactical foul.”
Silva was all smiles with Jose Mourinho before the game but he disagreed with his friend and mentor that United could have had six goals and that side's in Watford's position are able to play with more freedom.
“I didn't see the same game," he said.
“We have a lot to lose. They fight for champions, we fight to remain in the Premier League. We compete until the end of the match. We have pressure as well. It's not just the top six that feel pressure. We did our best in the match, but we played better in the second half.”