EPL

Watford 4-1 Manchester United: Maguire off as Hornets humiliate Solskjaer's Red Devils

By Sports Desk November 20, 2021

Harry Maguire was sent off as Manchester United suffered their fifth defeat in seven Premier League games, a humbling 4-1 setback at Watford.

First-half goals from Joshua King and Ismaila Sarr, who had an earlier penalty saved, piled pressure on struggling United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Vicarage Road.

Substitute Donny van de Beek pulled one back for United, who had captain Maguire dismissed for two bookable offences.

But Claudio Ranieri's home team made sure with stoppage-time strikes from Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis, earning a second win in seven matches to move four points clear of the relegation zone.

Watford were handed a great opportunity to take the lead in the sixth minute; Jon Moss pointing to the spot after Nemanja Matic's reckless slice at the ball culminated in Scott McTominay bundling over King.

Kiko Femenia slammed home the rebound after Sarr's penalty was saved, but the goal was disallowed for encroachment in the box and the spot-kick ordered to be retaken, with David de Gea coming to the rescue once again.

But the United goalkeeper was helpless as the hosts took the lead in the 28th minute; King slotting home against his former club from Dennis' cutback.

Watford doubled their advantage just before the break; an unmarked Sarr taking a touch before drilling past De Gea from a tight angle.

Solskjaer introduced Van de Beek at the break, and the former Ajax midfielder immediately responded by heading home within five minutes of his introduction.

Foster then did brilliantly to deny Cristiano Ronaldo as the visitors turned up the pressure.

They continued to threaten after Maguire received a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Tom Cleverley in the 70th minute.

But their hopes were dashed as Watford struck twice in stoppage time; Pedro and Dennis drilling low shots past De Gea from a tight angle.

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  • Tuchel refuses to concede title race, criticises scheduling of Brighton trip Tuchel refuses to concede title race, criticises scheduling of Brighton trip

    Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has refused to concede the Premier League title race, despite his side sitting 13 points adrift of Manchester City after their 1-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium.

    Speaking ahead of Chelsea's trip to face Brighton, who have never beaten the Blues in 13 league meetings, Tuchel also criticised the scheduling of his team's trip to the Amex Stadium.

    Chelsea are winless in three Premier League games, their longest run without victory under the German coach, but Tuchel, while praising City, claimed his team are still in contention for a first Premier League title since 2017.

    "Maybe we have to stop focusing on our own problems, and simply admit that City are in a very strong place", Tuchel said.

    "In the last 12 matches they have a 100 per cent record. They earned what they have. Maybe it's necessary to admit this.

    "The second thing to say is that we will never give up. Never, never, never, until the race is over.

    "I told you many weeks ago that we were in a good place because we were in the middle of the race. Maybe we're not there anymore, but we're still in the race.

    "We cannot lower our ambitions because it [the gap to City] is now 13 points, we cannot. We are committed to our goals."

    Chelsea managed just one shot on target in their defeat at the Etihad, struggling to make inroads against the team with the most clean sheets in the Premier League (13), but Tuchel seemed content with his side's performance against the champions.

    "Last match, like all the five matches we've played now against Manchester City [since Tuchel took charge last year], was 50-50," he said. "We won the first three, but all of them could have gone the other way.

    "I'm happy with where the team is, there's no need to doubt the process. We will bounce back and never give in."

    Tuchel was also asked about the scheduling of the trip to Brighton, brought forward due to the Champions League holders' appearance at next month's FIFA Club World Cup, and criticised the decision to play the match in the middle of a busy period for his team.

    "It's very hard to understand," he said. "Now we have three away games in a row. Both Brighton and we have our next games on Sunday, so there was no need to put it on a Tuesday.

    "Now it's been squeezed in this week. Last week we didn't have a whole week to prepare for Manchester City because we had the Carabao Cup semi-final.

    "On one hand I don't want to complain or to make excuses, absolutely not, but for example, all coaches in the semi-finals [of the EFL Cup] wanted to play just one leg, and it was not possible.

    "We could have done better in scheduling this match, for sure."

  • Diego Carlos, Botman or both – why Newcastle must spend big at the back Diego Carlos, Botman or both – why Newcastle must spend big at the back

    Newcastle United plugged one of the two gaping holes in their side in time for last Saturday's huge game against Watford.

    Chris Wood made his debut as the club's only fit senior striker following his £25million move from relegation rivals Burnley.

    However, at centre-back, Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar were again paired, prompting an all too predictable finale in which the former – Newcastle's captain – was beaten in the air for a dramatic Watford equaliser.

    Newcastle have been pushing hard for defensive reinforcements to fit in alongside Kieran Trippier, but Lille insist Sven Botman will not be sold in January and a pursuit of Sevilla's Diego Carlos is also dragging on, while interest in Benoit Badiashile of Monaco – another mooted option – has been complicated by his injury.

    Regardless, the Magpies' bottomless budget simply must deliver a centre-back in the coming days, for Eddie Howe's men – still with only a single win this season – risk being cut adrift, as the world's richest club or otherwise.

    Fine margins foiling Magpies

    Wood did not have an immediate impact, and Newcastle's attackers have struggled to aid their defensive colleagues this season, never once forging a two-goal lead in a game.

    But when they have been able to net first, doing so in 10 different matches, including against Watford, that back line has failed miserably to protect their advantage.

    Newcastle have dropped a league-leading 21 points from winning positions. With 18 matches to play, an unwanted club record of 31 (in 2004-05) is coming into view.

    This dismal trend has resulted in nine draws through 20 games, their most at this stage of a season in the competition's history (beating eight in 20 in 2003-04).

    Having lost fewer games (10) than 13th-placed Aston Villa (11) and trailed for only 35 per cent of their time with the ball in play (the same proportion as 10th-placed Leicester City), it will be these draws that relegate Newcastle, with such fine margins deciding their destiny to this point.

    Newcastle have missed at least one 'big chance', from which Opta would expect a player to score, in six of their nine draws – including Joelinton on Saturday and each of Sean Longstaff, Ciaran Clark and Jacob Murphy in the reverse fixture at Watford (another 1-1) – while their opponents have been far less profligate with the opportunities afforded by some generous defending.

    Generous Geordies giving up gifts

    Newcastle have gifted away a league-high 10 goals this term through errors leading to goals (four), penalty goals (five) and own goals (one), representing 23.3 per cent of the alarming total of 43 in the goals against column.

    It is a statistic that reflects slightly harshly on the St James' Park outfit, given Newcastle have given up just eight chances through errors. Only Everton (six goals from eight errors) have been punished more ruthlessly.

    But there can be no doubt Howe needs upgrades in that area of the pitch.

    Not content with squandering opportunities at one end, Clark is the only player in the Premier League to make an error leading to a goal, concede a penalty and be sent off this season – all in the space of 993 minutes. In fact, his error against Manchester City came inside five minutes on his return to the team having been dismissed after nine minutes against Norwich City.

    Long-term colleague Lascelles has been little better. He alone has conceded three penalties this term, more than any other player in the division. Meanwhile, Schar is the sole Newcastle player to have committed multiple errors leading to shots.

    There are only weak links in the middle of that defence right now.

    No Botman and Robin but a DC superhero?

    With Trippier already on board, Newcastle could yet recruit an entirely new defence this month, with Howe said to want two centre-backs – Botman and Diego Carlos appear the top targets – alongside a left-back.

    Robin Gosens was the latest name to emerge and be dismissed as an option by his current employers, Atalanta, over the weekend, but Newcastle surely have to land at least one of these ambitious targets in time for another vital fixture at Leeds United on Saturday.

    Botman showed on Sunday why he is so sought after and why Lille are so keen to keep hold of him, scoring at Marseille while also contributing 12 clearances and three blocks as the 10-man champions earned a draw. It is only the second example in Europe's top five leagues this season (also Dante versus Rennes in December) of a player making at least 12 clearances and three blocks.

    Diego Carlos, it would appear, is a more realistic buy in January, despite his importance to a Sevilla team who have conceded only 13 goals in 20 league games this term – a joint-low alongside Manchester City across Europe.

    The Brazil Olympic champion has started 19 of those games and leads LaLiga in blocks (21); interestingly, Burnley's James Tarkowski, another player of interest to Newcastle, tops the Europe-wide charts with 29.

    Diego Carlos should also bring some calm in possession, with his passing accuracy (88.4 per cent) dwarfing that of Clark (79.0), Lascelles (78.2) and Schar (67.3). The Sevilla man ranks second in LaLiga for passes (1,298) and sixth for forward passes (411), fitting with Howe's more progressive approach.

    Yet Newcastle's willingness to push their bid up towards a club-record fee may well be questioned in some quarters due to the more concerning similarities with his potential new team-mates.

    No player in Europe has made more errors leading to shots than Diego Carlos, with two of the five resulting in goals. Meanwhile, since joining Sevilla in 2019, he has conceded 10 penalties in all competitions – including three for fouls on current Premier League players in Adama Traore, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku.

    Sevilla have only lost one of those 10 games, peculiarly, perhaps showing the difference Diego Carlos can make outside of these rash moments.

    Ideally, Newcastle would not introduce more chaos into this defence, but they certainly cannot afford to do nothing. If Diego Carlos is the man they want, the pressure is on to deliver him in time for Saturday.

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    Haaland was on target twice in Friday's 5-1 win over Freiburg to make it 15 league goals for the campaign and 55 in 56 games for Dortmund in all competitions since joining.

    Only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (79 goals in 62 games) has found the net more often over the past two years among players from Europe's top five leagues.

    The Norway international has been regularly linked with a move away from Dortmund, with Real Madrid and Barcelona rumoured to be particularly eager to strike a deal.

    And Haaland, who reportedly has a €75million release clause in his contract that will activate in July, stated last week a decision on his future will be made soon.

    "The last six months I have chosen not to say anything out of respect for Dortmund, but now the club has started to press me into making a decision," Haaland said.

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    "It's not a big issue for us," he said at a news conference previewing Tuesday's DFB-Pokal last-16 tie with St. Pauli.

    "We spoke briefly on Sunday, but it was mainly about football. I'm deeply relaxed about this topic because I see Erling here every day.

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    Reyna has been restricted to just four appearances for BVB this term due to an injury picked up on United States duty in September.

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    "Gio Reyna is on the right track overall, but of course, he has lost something over time," Rose said.

    "We have to get him playable and fit to play. Without wanting to promise too much, let's aim for the break after the Hoffenheim game [next weekend] to get him fully fit again."

    Reyna scored and assisted a combined nine goals in the Bundesliga last season, the fifth-most of any Dortmund player, with Haaland leading the way (33).

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