Interim boss Ralf Rangnick says Manchester United must be “sharper in front of goal” after a wasteful display in their 0-0 draw with relegation-threatened Watford.
The Red Devils dropped two more points in their quest for a Champions League place and left the field to boos after being frustrated by the lowly visitors, despite dominating at Old Trafford.
United had 22 shots against Roy Hodgson’s side but the only time they found the net, Cristiano Ronaldo was offside.
Ronaldo also hit a post and struck team-mate Anthony Elanga with a goal-bound shot.
Elanga himself failed to provide the finish to a flowing move, while Bruno Fernandes was unable to capitalise on two excellent first-half opportunities.
“We did everything apart from score,” Rangnick told BBC Match of the Day.
“It’s hard to take that result. We need to be sharper in front of goal. You can hardly create more chances than we did today. In the end it is a very frustrating afternoon.
“Sometimes we are unlucky, when we hit the post, but we also had a few opportunities one-on-one with the goalkeeper. This is not luck, it is a question of sharpness and efficiency in front of goal.”
Watford might have scored themselves, but Emmanuel Dennis’ effort lacked conviction and hit Raphael Varane before bouncing through to David de Gea.
Victory for the visitors would have been completely against the run of play, although the point nudges them a little closer to the clubs outside the relegation zone.
The game was preceded by a show of solidarity with Ukraine after the Russian invasion, with both teams standing behind a banner proclaiming “Peace” in a number of languages, including Russian and Ukrainian.
For United, it was another of those frustrating games that Rangnick has complained about often during his short tenure.
The hosts created a succession of chances – and spurned the lot. Ronaldo was the first culprit, when he stuck a post. But Fernandes was the worst.
The Portuguese was on the end of a flowing move involving Elanga and Ronaldo, but with only Ben Foster to beat drove his shot straight at the Watford keeper.
Fernandes then turned a volley wide when he was picked out by Paul Pogba completely unmarked and in a central position with the goal at his mercy.
He was off target with a far-post header as well, although that incident was almost as noteworthy for the fact Ronaldo stayed on his feet when Foster came careering out of his goal, when he surely would have had a decent penalty shout if he had gone down.
Instead, he went around his one-time United team-mate before providing the cross Fernandes failed to convert.
The hosts fared no better in the second period, with Elanga getting on the end of a flowing move he started – but missing the target with his shot.
Ronaldo lent against a post almost in reflection as another chance went begging, before driving a shot straight into Elanga.
Substitute Jadon Sancho curled an effort over before Fernandes drove the final opportunity straight at Foster.
A step forward for Watford
This result was nowhere close to being on the same scale as Watford’s 4-1 success in the reverse fixture that triggered the dismissal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. However, it will feel as though there is something more solid to build on.
Watford had gone 30 games without keeping a clean sheet when Roy Hodgson took over as manager – now they have three in six games, to go with the five points collected in the former England boss’s short time in charge.
Dennis spurned their best chance but Hodgson will be delighted Foster was not really stretched, with another former United player, Craig Cathcart, outstanding in the Hornets’ defence.
It might not be pretty, but Hodgson will doubtless feel if his side can get to the period in the spring when they play four fellow relegation candidates in the space of six games, they will give themselves a chance of survival.
A call for peace
It was Rangnick’s idea to stand behind the “Peace” banner before kick-off.
The German, who was working in Russia for Lokomotiv Moscow before the call came from United in November, spoke eloquently about the unfolding situation in Ukraine on Friday.
It is clearly something Rangnick cares passionately about, and he also wore a “No War” badge on his coat.
- 1de Gea
- 27TellesSubstituted forShawat 74′minutes
- 31MaticSubstituted forRashfordat 74′minutes
- 17FredSubstituted forSanchoat 62′minutes
- 18Bruno Fernandes
- 7Cristiano Ronaldo
- 2NgakiaSubstituted forKabaseleat 63′minutes
- 8CleverleySubstituted forKuckaat 80′minutes
- 7KingSubstituted forSemaat 63′minutes
- 10João Pedro
Match ends, Manchester United 0, Watford 0.
Second Half ends, Manchester United 0, Watford 0.
Attempt missed. Ismaïla Sarr (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Imrân Louza.
Attempt saved. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Raphaël Varane.
Attempt missed. Jadon Sancho (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Victor Lindelöf.
Attempt missed. Juraj Kucka (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Ismaïla Sarr.
Attempt blocked. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Paul Pogba.
Substitution, Watford. Juraj Kucka replaces Tom Cleverley.
Anthony Elanga (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Ken Sema (Watford).
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Samir.
Attempt blocked. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Attempt missed. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Luke Shaw with a cross.
Substitution, Manchester United. Marcus Rashford replaces Nemanja Matic.
Substitution, Manchester United. Luke Shaw replaces Alex Telles.
Attempt missed. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Alex Telles with a cross.
Paul Pogba (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Emmanuel Dennis (Watford).
Attempt missed. Paul Pogba (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Bruno Fernandes with a cross.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Hassane Kamara.
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