Michael Folivi grabbed his 11th and 12th goals of the campaign as Watford got back to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Millwall at London Colney this afternoon.
Hayden Mullins’ side came into the game on the back of three consecutive away losses but made it three home wins in a row with an impressive performance over the ninth-placed Lions.
It was a quiet opening 10 minutes with no real chances for either team. Both sides looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with Jerome Sinclair and Folivi looking to use their pace for the hosts.
The first chance of the game went to the hosts. An in-swinging corner from the left was met by the head of Joy Mukena but the centre-half couldn’t keep his effort down as it sailed just over the bar.
Folivi opened the scoring for the Hornets after a fantastic long-range pass from Ashley Charles set the forward racing through on goal. He beat the defender for pace and slotted past Millwall keeper Harry Girling to break the deadlock.
Millwall were almost level midway through the first-half when Noel Leighton rose highest from Joe Wicks’ corner, but his header was just over Nathan Gartside’s goal.
There was a huge chance for Folivi to double his and his side's tally on the half-hour mark. The striker was sent through again, using his pace to beat the offside trap and get in behind, but instead of shooting he tried to round Girling and was denied. There were shouts for a penalty by the home side but referee Ryan Atkin was not interested.
Millwall’s biggest threat looked to be their aerial presence, Leighton again going close with his head, however Gartside was there to meet it.
A mistake at the back by Charlie Rowan almost gave Millwall a late first-half equaliser. The centre back was caught in position by the Lions pressing forwards but recovered well to block Kris Twardek’s effort just before the break.
After a quiet opening spell to the second period, Watford almost doubled their lead after an hour. Brice Dja Djedje was through down the right, his powerful drive was saved smartly by Girling before Folivi’s rebound was also well kept out by the Millwall stopper.
Dion Pereira went close down the left-hand side, with his effort deflected out for a Watford corner. From the resulting set-piece, Folivi doubled his side's lead, heading beyond Girling to continue his remarkable goalscoring run.
Watford continued to look comfortable as the game wore on and Millwall failed to test Gartside’s goal.
The Hornets will now host Cardiff next Monday (December 4) in the Premier League Cup
Andy Mitten, who is the editor of the United We Stand fanzine, tells us all about the Red Devils ahead of Tuesday night's game.
United come here amid a run of three defeats in the last eight matches. Would it be fair to say the Reds' early-season juggernaut has lost a bit of momentum?
“They were scoring a lot of goals at the start of the season but the goals have dried up a bit. Definitely. The team has gone through a bit of a bump in form but they are still top of their group in the Champions League, are second in the table and are through to the quarter-final of the League Cup, so things are good and Jose Mourinho remains popular among fans.
“Everyone would like to see an improvement in the style of play but let's not forget we are only at the start of his second season and that tends to be the season where Mourinho does really well. The first was very much deemed a success. Even though they finished sixth, the club won two trophies and the team progressed under Mourinho.”
Mourinho never seems too far away from confrontation. What's his mood been like lately?
“He’s the same as he's always been. He can be confrontational but what he's doing is taking the pressure off the players and putting the spotlight on himself. I've spoken to players and they really like him. Yes he can fall out with people and be prickly when he talks to the media but he's generally made a favourable impression since coming to United. Yes he's got loads of imperfections but he's suffering at the minute from comparisons with City who are playing outstandingly well.
“He does get results and everybody at Old Trafford was unnerved recently when there was talk of him leaving the club, as the club are not used to a manager deciding they want to leave. Usually it's the club that calls the shots. He annoys fans at times, especially when he calls them out about the atmosphere at Old Trafford. He had a point on Saturday, though. He keeps everyone on their toes, that's for sure.”
United and Mourinho got plenty of criticism for their cautious approach at Anfield last month. Is there any chance he might be happy with a point at Vicarage Road?
“They will have a go try and win the game. No question. City are eight points clear and United need to keep tabs with them otherwise they are going to run away with it. United feel they've got the players to win it, even thought Watford are going well and have a bit more certainty about the manager situation now. If Untied played for a draw, that wouldn't be good enough for the fans. They are expected to try and win the game.”
We have fond memories of the 3-1 win at Vicarage Road last season. Is that result like to form part of Mourinho's teamtalk?
“They will want revenge for last season. Mourinho was asked about that on Saturday and he became more animated as he spoke about it. You could tell he is still annoyed about it and he definitely wants a better performance than last season. United don't lose many games and I can't recall when they last conceded three goals.
“That result really does stand out, especially as Mourinho teams don't really concede many goals. Watford deserved to win, no question, and I think most United fans remember that game for the comments Jose made about Luke Shaw after the game. United fans like going to Watford. It's a good away end and it's always a decent atmosphere. They only get about two-and-a-half or three thousand tickets yet about ten or 11 thousand will have applied. That shows you the sort of support they get away from home.”
What's the latest from the treatment room?
“Eric Bailly is back and he could have started against Brighton but he didn’t. That means Lindelof and Christ Smalling played at centre-half and they played well, keeping another clean sheet. The injury list is clearing up, though. Zlatan is back, Pogba is back and Fellaini is back.
“The previous long-termers like Ashley Young and Luke Shaw are also available, but only one of those is playing. I'm not sure about Phil Jones. I suspect he'll play as he played every single game until he went away with England. What went on there didn't please the manager, that's for sure.”
It will be fascinating to see United's line-up. Which areas of the team are up for grabs?
“Mourinho will weigh up whether he thinks Deeney will play before he decides his two centre-halves. Smalling and Lindelof played well on Saturday but Bailly and Jones are physically stronger. Up front, Lukaku will start but, in general, Mourinho was disappointed with his creative players on Saturday.
“He might ditch Rashford as he didn't have a good game and him, Mata and Martial all came off on Saturday, so that tells you how they played. Usually he doesn't start Rashford and Martial together but I wouldn't be surprised if both started. Defenders don’t like playing against them. Then there's Mkhitaryan. He hasn't been playing at all well and is desperately searching for consistency.”
Ashley Young is guaranteed a good reception when he runs out at Vicarage Road. He must be performing well as he got a recall to the England side.
“He's playing really well. He's playing in the left-back role. He's set up some goals, score some and his crossing is fantastic. Left-back has been the biggest problem for Untied and he’s not a natural left back but he’s playing well week in and week out. He's hugely valued by the supporters, by the manager and among the players. He's not a star like Pogba but he doesn't need to be. He's just pleased to be playing playing all the time.”
Would it be fair to say Romelu Lukaku's form has dropped off of late?
“He started brilliantly. He scored seven in his first seven and now he's on a run where's he's not scoring. He's not been playing that badly, though. Every striker goes through a lean spell and he's definitely going through one now. He's perhaps down a bit on confidence and his lack of goals has definitely coincided with the team slipping off in terms of goals. Mourinho is still satisfied with how he's playing but he's now got Ibrahimovic and I don't think he'd be afraid to start him ahead of Lukaku if things continue.”
The team look transformed by the return of Paul Pogba. What's it like to have him back from injury?
“It’s big. He's really, really good, the best player in the team. He and David De Gea are the two world-class players in the side and Pogba really made the difference against Newcastle last week. He's such a dominant figure and the players really look up to him. He'll get better and better once he gets up to full fitness and you have to remember that this is just his second season back in English football.”
How is Watford's season so far seen at Old Trafford?
“The view of Watford is a real positive one and you look a real successful football club going places. The system of changing the manager might not seem conventional but it's working for you. You are eighth in a league with a ground that holds 20,000 – that's a great achievement and shows you are punching well above your weight. There is a lot respect there that you are doing well and for the decent players you have. It's a great achievement, as there are far bigger clubs than Watford who aren't doing half as well.”