Man United’s top-four aspirations suffered a setback as Watford held to a frustrating 0-0 draw.
United appeared to have found their goalscoring touch during a 4-2 win at Leeds United last Sunday.
But they reverted to what has often been their type under Ralf Rangnick, dominating possession and chances but ultimately disappointing in front of goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Elanga and Paul Pogba were all guilty of spurning opportunities as struggling Watford clung on to claim a valuable point in a result that will serve as a further boost to United’s rivals in the chase for Champions League football.
United quickly set about an onslaught on the Watford goal and saw a pair of gilt-edged chances go begging as Ronaldo turned and struck the left-hand post from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross.
And Bruno Fernandes could only shoot straight at Ben Foster after a beautiful move involving Ronaldo and Anthony Elanga.
Ronaldo then had the ball in the net only to be correctly flagged for offside before Fernandes skewed wide from Paul Pogba’s cross with the goal at his mercy.
Fernandes was soon guilty of similar profligacy, heading wide under no pressure after Ronaldo had skipped over Foster and found his compatriot with a cross from the right.
Pogba made a dismal waste of a superb far-post ball as United continued in the ascendancy after the interval.
There was further incredulity when Elanga then inadvertently blocked a goal-bound effort from Ronaldo following excellent work down the left byline from Fernandes.
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were thrown into the fray as United sought the breakthrough.
But a deserved winner did not arrive as Watford secured a stalemate that will be cheered heartily in London with Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham all chasing United.
What does it mean? Off-target United give hope to Gunners and the chasing pack.
United finished the game with 22 shots, but three of those hit the target.
Their expected goals (xG) of 2.43 was the highest of any side not to score in League this season.
This game means Man United is just two points ahead of an Arsenal side with three games on Rangnick’s men.
However, they are five clear of West Ham and Tottenham. The Spurs have two games in hand and the Hammers one.
Watford’s point moves them within three of safety.
Wan-Bissaka again at his best.
Excellent against Leeds last week; it was another acceptable performance at both ends of the pitch from Wan-Bissaka.
He had 111 touches while playing three key passes and making a game-high seven tackles.
Fernandes’ day to forget.
So often, Man United’s talisman, Fernandes, will not want to remember his performance in front of goal here.
His eight shots accounted for 1.01 xG, but his profligacy proved telling in his team dropping points.
Next Sunday, Man United will need to improve much in the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.
And will hope for Watford to do them a favour against Arsenal on the same day.
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