Ashley Young scored twice against his old club as Manchester United beat Watford in the Premier League.
United weathered late pressure from the hosts, having netted three goals in 13 first-half minutes to cut the deficit to five points on unbeaten leaders Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s side, though, can re-establish their eight-point advantage when they host Southampton on Wednesday.
Young drilled in a precise finish from the edge of the box, before curling in a stunning 25-yard free-kick six minutes later and Anthony Martial tucked in a cool finish from 18 yards out.
Brazilian Richarlison looped a header against the crossbar for Watford, but Troy Deeney scored a penalty and Abdoulaye Doucoure poked home from inside the area with six minutes to go for a tense finish.
But Jesse Lingard scored a stunning fourth for the visitors, picking the ball up inside his own half before driving forward into the box and finishing.
Don’t count United out
The Red Devils had lost their two previous away games in the league at Huddersfield and Chelsea, with Guardiola’s City threatening to run away with the title having dropped just two points from their opening 13 games.
But United’s tally of 32 points after 14 games is their best since the 2012-13 season, Sir Alex’s Ferguson’s last in charge and their most recent championship triumph.
Current manager Jose Mourinho is often criticised by supporters for his cautious approach, with Old Trafford legend Eric Cantona weighing into the debate this week by saying he prefers the “attacking football that Guardiola plays”.
He started with three at the back against the Hornets, which included Marcos Rojo’s first appearance since April because of a knee injury, and was vindicated by some clinical finishing.
Young, who started his career at Watford playing for the Hertfordshire club from 2003 to 2007, converted Lingard’s pass before netting a second into the top corner. He could have completed a hat-trick but struck the wall with a free-kick.
Frenchman Martial punished some poor Watford defending by stroking in his eighth of the season, the same total as in the whole of the last campaign.
United were holding on when Watford pulled to within a goal, but saved their best for last, as Lingard scored from a solo run having collected the ball 60 yards from the net.
Lukaku’s struggles continue
Striker Romelu Lukaku’s blistering start since joining United featured 11 goals in his first 10 games, but he has now managed just one in his previous 11.
The stats show he has been provided fewer chances by his team-mates and attempted fewer shots at goal compared to when he was finishing with regularity.
Against Watford, the Belgian had two shots on target, one effort which was pushed away by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who reacted sharply to keep out Lingard’s follow-up.
Lukaku’s lack of confidence was evident with 15 minutes to go when the ball was presented to him in front of goal, but he took too much time to set himself allowing the Watford defenders to retreat and clear.
United midfielder Paul Pogba should have got on the scoresheet too, but headed over from eight yards out.
A concern for United will be an muscular injury to midfielder Nemanja Matic, who hobbled off in the second half.
No Silva lining
Watford manager Marco Silva was Everton’s first choice to take over from Ronald Koeman after overseeing an impressive start in which his side have collected 21 points from 14 games.
The Hornets play an enterprising brand of football, making use of Richarlison’s pace and trickery, while Kiko Femenia caused problems at times with his runs from wing-back.
Silva, though, needs to work on his side’s problems at the back having now let in 25 goals this term, including 12 from set-pieces – more than any other side.
They could have snatched something from the game after Rojo’s clumsy challenge on Pereyra allowed Deeney to net from the spot and midfielder Doucoure clipped in Andre Carillo’s cutback.
Deeney headed straight at David de Gea as they searched for the leveller, before Lingard struck.
Man of the match – Jesse Lingard (Manchester United)
Deeney on the spot – the stats
- Manchester United have won eight of their nine Premier League games against Watford (L1), scoring at least two goals on seven occasions.
- Indeed, the Hornets have lost more games against Manchester United (eight) than against any other opponent in the Premier League.
- The Red Devils have scored 32 goals and conceded just eight in the Premier League this term – their goal difference of +24 is their best at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 2000-01 when they won the title (+26).
- Ashley Young scored his first Premier League double at Vicarage Road since October 2006, (the last one was while playing for Watford as a 21-year-old against Fulham).
- Romelu Lukaku made his 200th Premier League appearance this evening – only 10 players have scored more goals than the Belgian (93) after 200 outings in the competition.
- Abdoulaye Doucoure has scored five goals in the Premier League this season; only Leroy Sane (six) has netted more among midfielders.
- Troy Deeney has converted 11 of his 12 penalties in the Premier League, including each of his three taken against Manchester United (all at Vicarage Road in each of the last three seasons).
Watford host Tottenham on Saturday (kick-off 15:00 GMT), while Manchester United travel to Arsenal later that day (17:30 GMT).
- 6MariappaBooked at 41mins
- 5PrödlSubstituted forCarrilloat 58′minutes
- 16DoucouréBooked at 24mins
- 19HughesSubstituted forPereyraat 58′minutes
- 18GraySubstituted forDeeneyat 72′minutes
- 1de Gea
- 5RojoBooked at 38mins
- 25A Valencia
- 31MaticSubstituted forHerreraat 54′minutes
- 14LingardSubstituted forIbrahimovicat 88′minutes
- 11MartialSubstituted forRashfordat 65′minutes
- 9R Lukaku
- Jonathan Moss
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Watford 2, Manchester United 4.
Second Half ends, Watford 2, Manchester United 4.
Marvin Zeegelaar (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Victor Lindelöf.
Tom Cleverley (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Paul Pogba (Manchester United).
Corner, Watford. Conceded by David de Gea.
Substitution, Manchester United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic replaces Jesse Lingard.
Goal! Watford 2, Manchester United 4. Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ander Herrera following a fast break.
Foul by André Carrillo (Watford).
Ander Herrera (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Watford 2, Manchester United 3. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by André Carrillo.
Attempt blocked. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Tom Cleverley.
Attempt missed. Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Romelu Lukaku.
Attempt saved. Troy Deeney (Watford) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Kiko Femenía.
Goal! Watford 1, Manchester United 3. Troy Deeney (Watford) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Penalty Watford. Roberto Pereyra draws a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty conceded by Marcos Rojo (Manchester United) after a foul in the penalty area.
Attempt missed. Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Marcus Rashford.
Foul by Troy Deeney (Watford).
Victor Lindelöf (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Paul Pogba (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Jesse Lingard with a cross following a set piece situation.
Foul by Richarlison (Watford).
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt blocked. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jesse Lingard.
Attempt missed. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Tom Cleverley.
Substitution, Watford. Troy Deeney replaces Andre Gray.
Attempt missed. Adrian Mariappa (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right.
Attempt blocked. Paul Pogba (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jesse Lingard with a cross.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Foul by Marvin Zeegelaar (Watford).
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Manchester United. Marcus Rashford replaces Anthony Martial.
Attempt missed. Richarlison (Watford) header from the left side of the six yard box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Kiko Femenía with a cross.
Attempt blocked. André Carrillo (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Tom Cleverley.
Foul by Christian Kabasele (Watford).
Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Roberto Pereyra.