Bruno Fernandes’ first Manchester United goal set his new club on their way to a comfortable home win against relegation-threatened Watford and into fifth in the Premier League.
Fernandes, a £47m January signing from Sporting Lisbon, converted a 42nd-minute penalty after he had been taken out by Watford keeper Ben Foster.
The goal ended a 236-minute wait for a United home goal in the Premier League after they had failed to score against Burnley and Wolves.
Anthony Martial scored an excellent second on Sunday after Watford’s Troy Deeney had a goal ruled out by VAR for handball in the build-up. Mason Greenwood, 18, lashed home his 11th of the season 15 minutes from time to complete United’s scoring.
Fernandes told the BBC it was a dream to score at Old Trafford. “This is the day every player wants to have. I feel lucky to score,” the Portuguese midfielder said.
“Everyone knows we want to get into the Champions League places. I am here to help the team conquer this place and keep winning games, it’s what I want to do, it’s what I need to do.”
After beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday, it was only the third time this season that United had won successive Premier League games.
While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have now moved into the top five, Watford remain second from bottom.
Fernandes’ arrival at Old Trafford has provided an injection of enthusiasm on and off the pitch.
The United fans sing “Bruno, Bruno” in the way they used to chant Wayne Rooney’s name. They certainly respond to his directness, and it was from one such burst that Foster brought him down.
Given the midfielder’s elaborate jump as he ran up to take the kick, he needed to score – and he did, with Foster diving the wrong way.
Martial also seems to have responded to Fernandes’ arrival.
The Frenchman’s latest goal means he has found the net in three consecutive games for the first time since September 2017.
The manner of it was superb – first nudging Christian Kabasele aside, then brilliantly finding space with a neat bit of skill after Foster’s initial save had returned the ball to him before keeping his composure to chip into an empty net.
Greenwood has taken a back seat in recent weeks after all the attention he was afforded in the early part of the season, but he also made his mark by smashing a shot into the roof of Watford’s net to end any lingering hopes of a comeback.
Watford’s noisy band of supporters cannot have travelled north with much optimism.
Their side have still never won at Old Trafford, and have now lost nine in a row since their last draw in 1995.
They did have chances. Deeney took too long to try to profit from a ridiculous early mix-up in the home defence, and Luke Shaw snuffed out the chance. Abdoulaye Doucoure also forced a decent save out of David de Gea when the game was still goalless.
There was also the obligatory chant against VAR – in front of watching referees’ chief Mike Riley – after Deeney’s ‘equaliser’ was ruled out, although the handball decision given against defender Craig Dawson as he met the corner that preceded the goal was automatic under the current regulations.
After an encouraging start under Nigel Pearson, who became their third manager of the season on 6 December, Watford have now collected a single point from their past four games.
They still have to play Leicester and Manchester City, who have already beaten them 8-0 this season, in a tricky run-in that begins against Liverpool at Vicarage Road on 29 February.
Harry Gregg remembered
Prior to the game, there was an impeccably observed minute’s silence for former United keeper Harry Gregg, who died on 16 February, aged 87.
In addition to a the silence, a banner was pulled across the Stretford End, proclaiming Gregg’s name with a picture of the man who will forever be remembered for pulling survivors out of the wreckage following the Munich air crash in 1958, in which eight of his team-mates were killed.
Sir Bobby Charlton, who watched this game from the directors’ box, is the only player from that day still alive.
Man of the match – Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
‘Now we want to kick on’ – what they said
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to BBC Match of the Day: “A very good win, two good wins and two clean sheets, some goals to celebrate, now we want to kick on.
“I thought first half we started by gifting them some good opportunities and gradually we created more and more chances.
“Bruno Fernandes is quicker than he looks. I’m very excited by having him in. He has come in, given everyone a boost and wants to conduct a game. There are big games coming up now.
“The thing that matters in football is scoring goals and that is what Mason Greenwood does.”
Nigel Pearson to Match of the Day: “It was a difficult day. A day in which we started OK.
“We had opportunities we did not make the most of and really think we put them in a position where we frustrated them. I think we started the second half OK and we went on to be opened up.
“It’s frustrating because I know when we are at our best we could have had them. I thought today we were a little disjointed from time to time.”
On Watford’s disallowed goal: “I was unaware until I went to look at the monitor. I think we are all pretty accustomed to the wait to confirm the decision. It’s a part of the game now.”
Greenwood’s teenage dream – the stats
- United have won all seven of their Premier League games against Watford at Old Trafford, scoring 17 goals and conceding just two.
- Watford have never won an away league match against United in 13 attempts (D2 L11), losing each of the past nine in a row since avoiding defeat in November 1985 in a 1-1 draw.
- Watford have lost four of their past five games in all competitions (D1). They had only tasted defeat once in Nigel Pearson’s first eight matches (W4 D3).
- United are only the second Premier League team to be awarded 10+ penalties in consecutive seasons, after Crystal Palace (2017-18 & 2018-19).
- Mason Greenwood has scored 11 goals in all competitions this season, more than any other Premier League teenager.
- Anthony Martial has scored in three successive appearances for the first time since September 2017.
- Bruno Fernandes is the first United player whose maiden Premier League goal for the club was a penalty.
- Fernandes has scored each of the past 13 penalties he has taken in top-flight football (including 12 with Sporting Lisbon) since missing a spot-kick for Udinese in April 2016.
Manchester United’s next game is on Thursday, when they entertain Club Brugge in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie, currently level at 1-1. They then visit Everton next Sunday, 1 March, in the Premier League (14:00 GMT).
Watford’s next game is at home to Premier League leaders Liverpool on Saturday, 29 February (17:30 GMT).