First Team 31/03/2019

Deeney: “We Controlled The Game”

Troy Deeney insists Watford are “past the learning curve” of trips to places like Old Trafford after an eye-catching performance against Manchester United went unrewarded on Saturday.

The Hornets immediately set out their stall against Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s men on their own patch, with Abdoulaye Doucouré, Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deulofeu all squandering early chances.

Despite dominating United – Watford had 20 attempts to the Red Devils’ eight – they were undone by goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. 

And while Doucouré pulled one back late on, the Golden Boys were left frustrated that a terrific performance left them empty-handed.

For Deeney, it shows just how far the club has come that they now feel aggrieved at leaving a stadium like Old Trafford without reward.

“Of course we feel disappointed we have not got more from the game,” he said. “I am past the whole ‘learning curve’ and ‘we’re grateful to play here’ kind of thing – we deserved to win. 

“We should have definitely taken something from the game. We created 20 chances at Old Trafford and not many teams will do that. 

“It is about growing. You look at where we have come in the last three years and it is monumental. We are a completely different outfit and we are being taken seriously by teams. 

“This club will continue to grow long after me and the lads have been and gone. You want to be part of something and we have set the ball rolling. For myself, starting when we were in the low levels of the Championship to now be in the upper echelons of the Premier League, we are doing that. 

“We also have the depth in the squad to make changes like we did today, still compete and give a good account of ourselves. 

“The frustrating part is the stats – they will say that we don’t do too well against the top six but the performances suggest otherwise. 

“If you showed the game to the average person on the street who didn’t know who the two teams were, they would say we looked like Man United in the sense of how we controlled the game.”

However, there is little time for Javi Gracia’s men to feel sorry for themselves. Fulham visit Vicarage Road on Tuesday night before Watford head to Wembley to try and book a place in this season’s FA Cup final at the expense of Wolves.

Deeney insists his teammates have their focus solely on the Cottagers before any thoughts of the “razzmatazz” associated with a cup semi-final.

“We won’t sit there and moan [after Saturday],” he added. “We have a big week coming up and we can go back to seventh on Tuesday if we can beat Fulham. If we do that, everyone starts talking about what a great season it has been again. 

“We have only got to look at Tuesday. Nothing other than a win in that game really matters. If we play horrible and win 1-0, I don’t really care. 

“Soon as that game is out the way, then it is all about the build-up and the razzmatazz ahead of Wembley. We knew this week would be tough but we are ready to go.”

First Team 30/03/2019

Gracia: “It's Difficult To Explain”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for his thoughts from his press conference.

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia agreed that the defeat at Old Trafford had all the hallmarks of the one at the Emirates Stadium in September.

Like at Arsenal, the Hornets had more shots, more shots on target and forced more corners than their much-fancied hosts and yet somehow returned having conceded two goals and slipped to defeat. Watford at least had the consolation of a goal this time, an excellently created and executed one from Abdoulaye Doucouré, but this performance warranted way more than a consolation. The Hornets played as well here than they have done at any point since they last won in this neck of the woods in 1978.

“It was similar game [to the one at Arsenal],” said Gracia. “We know we have to make the step forward if we want to get points against these teams. I know we are able to get it. We are in the right way. I have that feeling every day in training. They have ambition and I can feel it. These are the games we have to show it in.”

Watford certainly turned up at Old Trafford and you could argue, with some justification, this was their best performance of the season. It leaves everyone feeling extremely positive ahead of a huge week for the club.

“We had a good performance,” said the Head Coach. “It’s true, it wasn’t enough to get the points but I’m happy with the performance. We need to finish better, we need to improve in the last metres. We created chances, we had more shots, more shots on target and more corners. We dominated and played a lot of time in the opposition half. The first goal was a counter-attack and the second was a moment when we played well. But when you don’t kill the game against these teams with high quality, you know you can lose in any moment. We tried until the end. We believed but it wasn’t enough.”

Gracia has given this team an identity and belief that they can come to imposing places like the Emirates, like Old Trafford and give as good as they get. 

“Before the game, we knew it would be a very tough game, but at half-time we spoke about believing we could do it,” said Gracia. “We were dominating the game and I am very happy and proud. It’s true, in the last part of the first half, United created some counter-attacks and that was a moment when the game was open. We took control again in the second half and I’m very happy and proud of my players. It’s just some little details that mean you don’t get the points.

“We took risks, we tried to play offensive and we created chances. The players believed form the beginning. After that you have to show in the last metres, a bit more aggression and be more efficient to finish but the rest of the performance was good.”

The Head Coach again showed the depth of his squad by making five changes. He fielded an entirely new back five (including the goalkeeper) from the quarter-final win against Crystal Palace and yet the performance level didn’t drop at all. If anything, it went up.

“In all the games, I made changes, but I have a good squad,” he said. “I have to choose different players as we have three important games in eight days. I know all of them are ready to play and compete.”