Manchester United 1-0 Watford

Juan Mata’s late free-kick handed Manchester United a massive 1-0 win against Watford at Old Trafford.

Match Reports: Manchester United 1-0 WatfordMatch Reports: Manchester United 1-0 Watford

The Spain international’s set-piece divided the two sides who both had several chances to score in a closely-fought encounter.

And the win moves Louis van Gaal’s United level on points with rivals Manchester City in the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Watford will feel aggrieved to have come away from the game with nothing to show for their efforts and remain in 12th spot in the table.

Watford started brightly but it was United who had the first chance on eighth minutes when Anthony Martial got up to meet an Ander Herrera cross at the back post but he sent his downward header wide.

Hornets’ hitman Odion Ighalo then tried to get a couple of efforts at the United goal with no luck, before Morgan Schneiderlin hit an effort from outside the area inches wide of the upright on 20 minutes.

Watford had two good opportunities to take the lead as Sebastian Prodl skewed a shot wide of the post in the area on 24 minutes, before Ighalo missed an even better chance three minutes later as he dragged a shot wide from 10 yards after being set up by Troy Deeney.

Ighalo had another effort for Watford on 38 minutes when he raced into the right side of the area and tested David De Gea from an angle, but the United keeper blocked the shot with Deeney waiting for the pass in the middle for a simple tap-in.

United continued to look shaky at the back and Guillermo Varela presented Ighalo with yet another chance to open the scoring on 43 minutes with a poor back-pass, but De Gea rescued him with a fine save.

Watford started the second half as they finished the first as Ighalo spurned a third great opportunity before Etienne Capoue hit a 30-yard strike which flew inches wide of the top corner on 48 minutes.

Two minutes later United striker Marcus Rashford was back helping his defence as he cleared Prodl’s near post header from a corner off the line.

United finally came into the game and on 57 minutes Heurelho Gomes raced off his line to bravely block Rashford’s effort after he surged past Jose Holebas into the right side of the area.

On the hour mark, Varela teed up Mata whose effort from 20 yards was punched away by Gomes.

United had two quick chances on 65 minutes as Rashford put a tempting ball right across the face of the Watford area with none of his team-mates able to get a vital touch, before Mata curled a strike inches wide of the far corner of the goal.

Watford responded and almost took the lead when Prodl got above Darmian, who looked to be pulling his shirt, to meet Ben Watson’s corner on 83 minutes but somehow sent his header wide of the goal from a few yards out.

He was made to pay for the miss on 83 minutes when Martial was adjudged to have been fouled by Miguel Britos just outside the area – replays suggest there was no contact – and Mata stepped up and curled a wonderful free-kick over the wall and into Gomes’ top corner to win it for United.

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