Bruno Fernandes scored his first goal for Manchester United and created two more as the Red Devils extended their unbeaten run to six matches in all competitions with a 3-0 Premier League victory over Watford.

The £62million January signing from Sporting CP put in a performance that made his fee look like a bargain, winning and scoring a first-half penalty to break the deadlock against a battling Watford team before creating superbly taken goals from Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.

United survived some nervous moments and Watford had an equaliser ruled out for handball before Martial doubled their advantage, but the invention and craft of Fernandes has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men an edge they lacked for so much of this season.

Defeat leaves Watford in the relegation zone and without a win in six matches in all competitions, but manager Nigel Pearson will take some comfort from a strong attacking performance that might have delivered a different outcome but for some poor finishing.

Troy Deeney might have put Watford ahead after three minutes when Nemanja Matic and Harry Maguire allowed Victor Lindelof's blocked pass to run through to the Hornets captain, but he hesitated, and Luke Shaw dispossessed him just in time.

Abdoulaye Doucoure hit the side-netting from a tight angle as Watford continued to prise open a faltering United defence and, when the hosts countered, Aaron Wan-Bissaka missed from 12 yards after Ben Foster parried Dan James' angled drive.

The pace of the game slowed before exploding into life five minutes before half-time when Fernandes burst into the Watford box where Ben Foster sent him sprawling, and the Portuguese midfielder's hopping run-up and cool low finish put United ahead from the spot.

Watford had the ball in the net five minutes after the restart when Maguire lashed it into the roof of his own net under pressure from Deeney, but Craig Dawson playing the ball with his arm in the build-up meant the goal was ruled out.

Six minutes later, Fernandes turned provider, threading a pass through to Martial whose drag-back fooled Etienne Capoue before his immaculate chip saw him beat Foster at the second attempt.

United's third was the pick of the goals, Greenwood starting a move that ended with Fernandes rolling the ball to him just inside the box and he cracked an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net off the frame of the goal.

Solskjaer sent on Odion Ighalo for his home United debut against his former club and he hit the post six minutes from time but by then the game was comfortably won as hopes of a possible Champions League return continued to grow around Old Trafford.

 

What does it mean?

One win in three home league matches hardly feels like great form but United are just three points behind fourth-place Chelsea, while Watford, who are 19th, remain one point adrift of safety and still without a league win at Old Trafford in their history.

Fernandes brings out United's best

The arrival of Fernandes has given the likes of James and Greenwood a creative lynchpin and, after showing his finishing prowess, the 25-year-old brought the best out of Martial and Greenwood.

Deeney made to rue early miss

Sluggish and sloppy in the opening 20 minutes, Deeney eventually grew into the game but only after he had missed Watford's best chance of the game.

What's next?

Watford host champions elect Liverpool at Vicarage Road on Saturday before United's trip to Everton on Sunday. The Red Devils are in Europa League action against Club Brugge at Old Trafford three days earlier.

Harry Maguire has explained he did not intend to kick Michy Batshuayi after an incident in the first half of Manchester United's 2-0 win over Chelsea.

Maguire scored United's second goal at Stamford Bridge on Monday, heading home from Bruno Fernandes' corner as the visitors moved to within three points of Frank Lampard's side.

However, Chelsea were angered midway through the first half when Maguire avoided any punishment after appearing to kick out at Batshuayi as both tumbled over the sideline.

There was a VAR check for violent conduct, but Maguire was not penalised and the England international claimed he had not intended to hurt the Chelsea forward.

"I can see why [it could be seen as a kick]. I knew I caught him," Maguire told Sky Sports.

"I thought he was going to fall on me, my natural reaction was to straighten a leg, so if he was to fall on me, it was to hold him up. It probably looks worse than it was.

"It wasn't a kick out, there was no intent, it was just my natural reaction to straighten my leg and if he was going to fall on me, to hold him up. I did catch him, I knew at the time but I think it's the right decision.

"I didn't have an intent to hurt him or kick him. It was just a natural reaction to straighten my leg, it wasn't a kick. I've got studs on my boot, makes it a little bit worse. I apologised to him but it was nice the referee has seen sense."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was also adamant his captain was innocent.

"You want the right decision to be made and you're happy that they are made and they weren't made without that help and it's been shown a few times that we needed that help," Solskjaer told Sky Sports when asked of the major officiating calls, with VAR also ruling out two Chelsea goals.

"I wouldn't think [it was a red card]. I think he's just protecting himself there, looks like he's getting a lad over him and he's put his leg where it does hurt."

United are up to seventh, with the race for Champions League qualification becoming increasingly congested, and Maguire stressed the importance of carrying on their form.

"This season we've been far too inconsistent," he said. "We won at Manchester City, beat Chelsea at home, got a point against Liverpool.

"But we've let ourselves down against the teams when the pressure is on to break them down. Next Sunday we've got Watford at home, we're not getting carried away because it's a massive game and we need to get the three points."

Manchester United closed ground on the Champions League places as Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire struck to claim a vital 2-0 win over Chelsea, who were twice denied by VAR.

Despite heading into Monday's meeting at Stamford Bride having taken just four points in 2020, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side moved to within a win of their opponents as they completed a Premier League double over Chelsea for the first time.

Martial continued his excellent form against Chelsea to get United off the mark, with the Blues denied an equaliser through Kurt Zouma by the video review system.

United made their luck count in the 66th minute with captain Maguire – who was perhaps fortunate to be on the pitch after an earlier clash with Michy Batshuayi – heading in Bruno Fernandes' corner and United held firm to secure valuable points after Olivier Giroud also saw a goal disallowed.

Chelsea were inches away from taking a sixth-minute lead when Reece James lashed wide, but Frank Lampard's side were dealt a blow when N'Golo Kante was forced off through injury in the 12th minute.

Maguire was lucky to go unpunished for kicking out at Batshuayi, who subsequently squandered a brilliant chance after terrific work from Mason Mount.

Yet for all Chelsea's threat, it was United who had the lead when Martial headed in Aaron Wan-Bissaka's excellent cross.

Chelsea thought they had equalised when Kurt Zouma tucked home from a corner, only for VAR to disallow the goal for Cesar Azpilicueta's push on Brandon Williams.

And, after Fernandes had struck the woodwork with a superb free-kick, Chelsea's frustrations were compounded as Maguire headed beyond Willy Caballero.

Giroud's header seemed to have set up a grandstand finish, but VAR again came to United's rescue. Mount then hit the post as the Blues' efforts proved fruitless, with Caballero preventing substitute Odion Ighalo netting a debut goal in stoppage time.

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told Manchester United supporters unhappy with the club's owners that the Red Devils must "stay together" after his players disappointed those hoping for an FA Cup upset by thumping Tranmere Rovers 6-0 to reach round five.

United arrived at Prenton Park having lost back-to-back Premier League games against Liverpool and Burnley and the club's plight prompted some in the away end to reprise the disgruntled atmosphere that filled Old Trafford after defeat to the Clarets four days earlier.

Goals from Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood lightened the mood among the United faithful as Solskjaer's men breezed past League One opposition, and the manager praised his side's approach after they avoided a potential banana skin.

"If you go into the trap of playing long balls and making this game a fight, we're not used to that," Solskjaer told BT Sport. "They would have been better suited than us. We just asked our players to play and it went well.

"I think the players played football the way it should be played. It was an exceptional performance at times. It was a very difficult pitch.

"It wasn't just the Tranmere people who wanted an upset, there were a lot of others. We've just got to stay together and keep working.

"Every game you win is a good one for your confidence. Every time you score a goal and perform well, it's good.

"The attitude was spot on. That's all you can ask for. When the attitude is right, you can't fault them."

Maguire, who opened the scoring for United with a powerful 20-yard drive, and then provided the assist for Lingard to score their third in a display full of guile and attacking intent, said his first goal for the club was long overdue.

"It's been a long time coming," said Maguire. "I've had a lot of chances this year without finding the back of the net. It’s nice to help the team get into the next round.

"It was really important to get the win, coming off the back of a bad performance and result against Burnley.

"We set our stall out to put in a positive performance for the fans. We're in the next round, which is what we came to do."

Diogo Dalot scored his first goal for Manchester United and there were rare strikes from Harry Maguire and Jesse Lingard as the Red Devils routed Tranmere Rovers 6-0 to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.

A goal glut and a morale-boosting victory was just what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men needed after suffering back-to-back Premier League defeats, and the United boss watched a fluent performance from his charges despite a cut-up pitch at Prenton Park.

Maguire opened the floodgates with a long-range strike into the top corner and goals from Dalot and Lingard soon followed to put the visitors 3-0 up inside 16 minutes.

Phil Jones headed United's fourth and Anthony Martial's deflected shot made it 5-0 before Mason Greenwood scored a penalty in the second half to wrap up a win that affords under-pressure Solskjaer some breathing space.

After 10 cagey opening minutes, United found space to exploit around the Tranmere box and Maguire strolled forward with the ball before cutting onto his right foot and sending a crisp drive into the top right corner from 20 yards, a slight deflection helping it on its way.

Three minutes later Dalot played a one-two with Martial and skilfully cut inside his marker before hammering an angled drive low into the far corner of the net to double his side's advantage.

Maguire continued his attacking forays and created space on the edge of the box for Lingard to curl United's third into the bottom corner with aplomb, and five minutes before half-time Jones met an Andreas Pereira corner with a looping far-post header over goalkeeper Scott Davies.

Martial rendered the second half a formality when he scored from the left corner of the Tranmere box with a shot that took a wicked deflection and curled just inside the right post.

Substitute Tahith Chong was scythed down by Davies early in the second half and Greenwood rolled his penalty into the bottom left corner.

Dalot broke down the right and lashed a shot towards goal that Davies could only parry away at the near post before Morgan Ferrier missed a one-on-one with Romero at the other end.

Lingard might have scored what would have been just his third goal in 42 games when he tried a bending shot from the edge of the box, but it flashed narrowly wide as a seventh strike eluded United.

 

What does it mean? Trouble averted - in some style

Any sort of victory would have suited Solskjaer here, with anything less likely to have ramped up the pressure on the manager's position towards breaking point.

But in tricky conditions he coaxed a display full of energy and invention from his side in difficult conditions against a side who were not without goal threat despite their lowly status.

Maguire leads by example

United's slow starts have been a problem for them this season, but captain Maguire led the charge into attack from the early stages and showed his team-mates how to take the game to their hosts.

Danns goes missing

The experience of former Leicester City man Neil Danns helped Tranmere beat Watford three days earlier, but United found it all too easy to breeze past the 37-year-old in the middle of midfield.

What's next?

United will hope to be as sharp in front of goal on Wednesday as they aim to overturn a 3-1 deficit in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final against Manchester City, while Tranmere entertain Sunderland in League One on the same evening.

FIFA has revealed a record amount was spent on transfers in 2019, with deals for Eden Hazard, Antoine Griezmann and Joao Felix topping the bill.

A report issued by world football's governing body on Wednesday revealed $7.35billion (£5.6billion) was spent by clubs in the transfer market in 2019, an increase of 5.8 per cent on the previous year.

The study also confirmed that English clubs spent the most, though the total figure of $1.52billion (£1.14billion) was a 22.1 per cent decrease from 2018.

Joao Felix's €126million transfer from Benfica to Atletico Madrid – who sold Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona for €120m – was the biggest deal of 2019, while Hazard left Chelsea for Real Madrid in a deal reportedly worth €100m.

Harry Maguire became the world's most expensive defender with a reported £80m switch from Leicester City to Manchester United, while Ajax sold young stars Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong to Juventus and Barcelona respectively for an initial €75m each.

There was also a rise of 16.3 per cent in spending in the women's game, with over 800 transfers made in total.

Harry Maguire is honoured to have replaced Ashley Young as Manchester United's captain, with the England defender claiming it is a "dream come true".

Young ended his eight-and-a-half-year stay at Old Trafford on Friday, with the England international joining former team-mate Romelu Lukaku and United loanee Alexis Sanchez at Inter.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed in his news conference ahead of United's clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday that Maguire – signed from Leicester City for a world-record fee for a defender in 2019 – will take the armband, despite having only been at the club since August.

Maguire has since expressed his excitement at having taken over as club captain, while former United skipper Wayne Rooney also congratulated the 26-year-old.

"[It's a] dream come true to be named the Man Utd captain," Maguire wrote on his official Twitter account. "Proud moment and a huge honour. Just want to wish Ashley Young all the best at Inter."

Young, meanwhile, penned a heartfelt goodbye to United's staff, players and supporters.

"To Man Utd, you gave me the chance to play with legends, to win trophies, to work under the greatest manager [Alex Ferguson] in history and to be your captain. Thank you for letting me be part of your story for eight-and-a-half years," the 34-year-old, who signed for United from Aston Villa in 2011, tweeted.

"To the United fans, every time I walked on the pitch wearing your shirt I gave you my all. Thank you for your support during the highs and the lows. I leave as one of you, see you again in an away end soon."

Harry Maguire has been named as Manchester United's new club captain.

England centre-back Maguire joined United in an £80million deal last August and succeeds Ashley Young, who is on the verge of a move to Inter.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed the news ahead of Sunday's Premier League trip to Liverpool.

"Harry has been wearing the captain's armband and he will keep wearing it," Solskjaer told a news conference.

"He's been a leader in the group and I've been impressed by his leadership skills.

"He's come in and everything about him tells me he's a leader. He's been leading this young group.

"Harry will keep on wearing the armband now."

Harry Maguire was thought to be set for a prolonged absence with a hip injury, but the Manchester United defender started as captain for the visit of Norwich City on Saturday.

Maguire suffered the blow during United's 0-0 FA Cup draw with Wolves last weekend and missed their 3-1 loss to Manchester City in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final on Tuesday.

Although reports suggested a possible lengthy lay-off for Maguire, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggested on Friday that the England international could be involved against the Canaries.

And that proved to be the case as he returned to a back four that again featured Brandon Williams, once more picked ahead of Luke Shaw.

Juan Mata was handed just his sixth Premier League start of the season and his first since a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa on December 1. 

United went into the game sixth in the table, five points adrift of the top four.

Harry Maguire is in contention to feature for Manchester United against Norwich City on Saturday despite reports he was facing a significant spell out with a hip injury.

The most expensive defender in the world missed Tuesday's 3-1 EFL Cup semi-final first-leg defeat to Manchester City.

It was then claimed he was set to be out for an extended period due to torn a hip muscle, seemingly dealing United a massive blow given their dwindling defensive numbers.

But United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has allayed such fears, revealing the England centre-back could start against Norwich in the Premier League clash at Old Trafford.

"He's got a chance for tomorrow," Solskjaer confirmed in his pre-match news conference on Friday. "It was a minor thing.

"I don't know where the reports are coming from, you might've mistaken him for Harry Kane. No, he has a chance. We'll go through training and see how he reacts.

"It's not a surprise [that Maguire may be ready to play]. He's a warrior and if there's a minor problem he'll put himself up to play. That's what he did against Wolves. At half-time he was feeling discomfort but was adamant he'd be fine.

"He was close to playing against City, just not fit enough, but he's got a chance now."

There was less encouraging news for Scott McTominay, however, as the Scotland international is not expected to be back in action until the end of February after suffering knee ligament damage.

"Scott's out for a while," Solskjaer added. "I don't think we'll see him before the winter break [in February]. Hopefully we'll see him in February."

Eric Bailly and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are close to being match fit, though, with both yet to make an appearance this season.

Solskjaer said: "Eric and Tim are playing tonight [Friday] for the reserves, so that will be positive for them. They've been training well for a month now. Hopefully they'll get through that to be available for us again."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was satisfied with Manchester United's display in the FA Cup clash against Wolves, despite his side not mustering a shot on target in the 0-0 draw at Molineux.

A replay will be required to decide who will go through to the fourth round after neither team crafted a winner in Saturday's encounter, which only came alive in the final 20 minutes.

United substitute Marcus Rashford hit the crossbar moments after coming on before Matt Doherty had a goal correctly disallowed for handball, while Raul Jimenez rattled the woodwork for the hosts.

Despite his side ultimately hanging on to take the tie back to Old Trafford without managing a shot on target in a domestic match for the first time since January 2015, Solskjaer was pleased with the level of their performance.

"I'd rather have a replay than be out of the cup. We knew coming here was difficult but we're still in the hat and at home there's a little bit more chance of going through," Solskjaer told BT Sport.

"It always is [tough] when you come to Molineux. I thought we played well in the first half, dominated possession but then they took over in the second half, which made it an even tougher game.

"We got off the hook when Doherty mistimed his header and it hit his arm, but I thought a draw was a fair result.

"We didn't create too many chances but I thought we controlled it. It was just that last bit we missed, we set out to control possession. I thought we did okay.

"Some players have played and are tired, some haven't played and probably felt the effects of that towards the end."

There were concerns over Harry Maguire's fitness, with the defender struggling with an injury. 

The England international stayed on to complete the 90 minutes, though Solskjaer admitted he could be doubtful for the EFL Cup clash with Manchester City in midweek.

"I don't know," Solskjaer replied when asked if Maguire would be fit for the Manchester derby. "We were close to taking him off at half-time, but he battled through. Let's see how he recovers, but we hope so."

Harry Maguire was at a loss to explain Manchester United's struggles against opposition in the bottom half of the table and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was similarly nonplussed after Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Watford.

United produced another insipid performance at Vicarage Road, as they struggled to create chances before Paul Pogba's 64th-minute introduction, but by that point they were already two down.

A David de Gea howler allowed Ismaila Sarr to open the scoring early in the second half and Troy Deeney made it 2-0 from the spot after Aaron Wan-Bissaka tripped the Watford winger.

United have made a habit of dropping points against teams in the Premier League's lower reaches, with the Red Devils winning 73 per cent of league matches under Solskjaer in which they have had less possession than their opponents, compared to just 36 per cent when they have had more of the ball.

But when asked about such struggles after the match, neither Maguire nor Solskjaer seemed to have any idea what the reason might be.

"It's something we can't really put our finger on," Maguire told Sky Sports. "We're working hard in training and that's all we can do, coming into these games prepared as well as we do for the likes of Manchester City away.

"It's disappointing. I always think when you play these games against the so-called lower opposition in the table that the first goal is crucial, so big, and we had chances to get it."

Solskjaer was similarly uncertain, instead focusing on the specific issues he identified in Sunday's defeat.

When asked about the discrepancy in United's form, Solskjaer said: "Well, you've got to earn every single point, every inch on the pitch, and we didn't deserve that.

"We were too slow, too many touches in the first half, too many passes that went astray and we didn't create enough chances.

"Obviously, we could have had one or two goals ourselves, it's about taking them when we get them. We could've scored the first.

"I can talk about it all day long – we didn't [take our chances] and now we have to face the fact that we've got two games against Newcastle [United] and Burnley coming up that we've got to improve on."

United are next in action against Steve Bruce's Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

Manchester United have the firepower to push for a top-four finish in the Premier League, says Harry Maguire, but the defender stated Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side must not get ahead of themselves.

United claimed their second successive victory as they secured a 2-1 derby victory over Manchester City on Saturday, three days after defeating Tottenham - managed by former boss Jose Mourinho - by the same scoreline.

The wins have taken United up to fifth, five points shy of fourth-place Chelsea, who on Saturday lost 3-1 to managerless Everton - United's next opponents in the league.

With Marcus Rashford having already matched his total tally of league goals from last season and Anthony Martial having netted what proved to be the winner against City, Maguire believes United's frontline has the quality to push them towards Champions League qualification.

However, the England centre-back is adamant United's squad will stay grounded, with the league outside of the top four still heavily congested.

"I think you need to look after your own results, don't look elsewhere, keep winning games," Maguire told Sky Sports. "We've won back-to-back games against Spurs and City. We've got another big game next week now.

"The top four is in sight but we just keep looking after our own results, keep trying to get the three points and keep improving.

"Over the last month or so, I feel like as a defender I look at the forwards and think they're going to score goals.

"At the start of the season, we didn't really score more than one goal in a game but now I think it's a few games on the spin where we're back to scoring goals.

"They're a big threat, they're top players, great talent and I think it's all coming together now."

Before hosting Everton on Sunday, United face AZ in their final Europa League group match, with an EFL Cup quarter-final against Colchester United coming up prior to the festive period.

Harry Maguire is delighted to see his boyhood club Sheffield United flying high in the Premier League and wants them to win every game - unless they are playing Manchester United.

England centre-back Maguire became the world's most expensive defender when he moved to Old Trafford in a reported £80million deal from Leicester City in the previous transfer window.

The 26-year-old came through the Blades' academy and made over 100 senior appearances for the club before leaving to join Hull City in 2014.

Maguire gets the chance to play at Bramall Lane again on Sunday, as the Red Devils - who sit a point behind the Blades - face Chris Wilder's side.

"It means so much, the club that gave me the chance of fulfilling my dream of becoming a professional footballer," Maguire told BBC Sport when asked about his return.

"I owe them a lot, I go back and support them whenever I can. 

"It's the first result I look for when I get off the pitch. I want to see them win every game they play, apart from when we're playing against them. A fantastic club and it's great to see them back in the Premier League where they belong

Maguire acknowledged he is unlikely to get much in the way of support from friends as he visits his old club - but insists his loved ones will be cheering him on.

"Hopefully I'll be the one smiling with my friends and not them," he said.

"I'm sure some of [my friends] will be supporting Sheffield United, but my family will be supporting Man United and hoping we get the three points."

Harry Maguire insists there are "definitely no cliques" in the England squad despite the altercation between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez this week.

Sterling has been dropped for Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley after confronting England team-mate Gomez on Monday.

The two players had clashed the previous day, as Sterling's Manchester City were beaten 3-1 by Gomez and Liverpool, the Premier League leaders and the winger's former club.

Yet Manchester United defender Maguire is confident issues between players from rival clubs will not continue to dog England as they reportedly have in the past.

Asked at a pre-match news conference if there were any club cliques in the squad, Maguire replied: "No, everybody mixes.

"I think you've seen how good the unity in the squad is over the last couple of years. It's been a good two years and the group has grown together. We continue to keep on growing and that's really important.

"No, definitely no cliques. We all share tables and share jokes and laughs together."

England need just a point against Montenegro to qualify for the finals, where they would play a number of matches at their own Wembley home.

Maguire is hopeful, should the Three Lions' secure their progress, the home crowd can be a big factor next year.

"It would be really special to play in a major tournament and walking out at Wembley would be something that you dream of," he said. "People say it would give us a little advantage as well.

"We know that the crowd get right behind us at Wembley and the support over the last few years – especially since I've been playing – has been unbelievable.

"It's a big game [against Montenegro] and one that we're all looking forward to and we feel prepared for."

England's hopes at the Euros would also depend on improved defensive showings, though, with a number of individual mistakes hampering their qualification campaign so far.

Maguire added: "Obviously, we're coming off the back of a clean sheet [in a 6-0 win in Bulgaria], but we've conceded a few sloppy goals recently. I'm not proud of it and we're working hard on the training pitch to make that better.

"We know the firepower we have in our squad. We've got to a stage now where we're scoring near enough in every game, and we're creating problems for other people's defences.

"So my job and I'm sure all the rest of the defenders and the keepers as a group, we'll try to shut the shop up and start keeping clean sheets a lot more regularly."

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