Bruno Fernandes' performance in Manchester United's 3-0 victory over Watford drew comparisons with Paul Scholes and Juan Sebastian Veron, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer underlined the Portugal international's quality.

Solskjaer recalled Veron's ability to thread long-range passes and Scholes' technique after Fernandes scored United's opening goal and had a hand in strikes from Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.

The victory was Fernandes' first at Old Trafford following his transfer from Sporting CP, and Solskjaer said his displays since joining the club had eased the attacking-midfield problems within the squad.

"In today's market I think we got a good deal," Solskjaer told reporters. "He has come in, done really well and given everyone a boost.

"It means more than just getting a player in. You can see the supporters are used to players with that personality, mentality and quality. He's been a big plus.

"From day one and, first minute, [he] felt like a presence in the group. First training session, demanding the ball. Some players take some time in warming up, but he felt confident straight away.

"It is a bit of a mix between Scholes and Veron. To be fair, he's got the temperament of Veron and a lot of the quality of Scholesy. He is a box-to-box midfielder. He can do everything a midfielder can do, similar to Veron and Scholes.

"One of the good things about him is he risks the ball like Veron did. I used to love playing with Seba [Veron] because you could make runs and you'll get the ball. And if he doesn't hit you, at least he's looking for you."

Midfield creativity has been an issue for Solskjaer this season, particularly due to Paul Pogba's lengthy injury lay-off and Jesse Lingard's struggle for form.

The United boss said Fernandes would not be limited to the advanced role behind the forwards, but indicated the club had recruited a key figure in his plans for the future.

"He is here now and he is one of the pieces that we are trying to put together," said Solskjaer. "He is a big piece in it and an important piece, because we are getting towards the business end of the field.

"We have spent with Harry [Maguire] and Aaron [Wan-Bissaka], who have done fantastically, and now we have got this number 10 or attacking midfield role nailed down. Hopefully he'll keep fit and keep producing performances.

"Some games he will play in a two, some games as an attacking midfielder, some games as a 10. He has played every position in midfield.

"He is going to be a very important part and is coming in to be a very important player for us because we've needed that type of player."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the arrival of Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United has "given everyone a boost" after the midfielder scored his first goal for the club in a 3-0 victory over Watford at Old Trafford.

Fernandes was outstanding throughout on Sunday as United clinched a second consecutive victory in a run of three unbeaten Premier League matches and moved them up to fifth in the table.

After scoring from the penalty spot to give United the lead, Fernandes created the opening for Anthony Martial to score their second and got the assist that teed up Mason Greenwood for a stunning third.

Solskjaer later paid tribute to the 25-year-old's pace and his uplifting effect on the Red Devils squad after he followed up an impressive outing in Monday's 2-0 win over Chelsea.

"Bruno Fernandes is quicker than he looks," the United manager told BBC Sport.

"[We're] very excited by having him in. He has come in, given everyone a boost and wants to conduct a game."

Solskjaer continued: "[Bruno] loves playing football, he wants the ball, he's got the personality and character to demand it all the time, wanting to take the penalty.

"He takes it the way he does to show he is a Man United character, not just a very, very good footballer."

"[It was] a very good win, two good wins and two clean sheets, some goals to celebrate. Now, we want to kick on," added Solskjaer, whose side entertain Club Brugge in the Europa League on Thursday ahead of their trip to Everton in the Premier League three days later.

"There are big games coming up now."

United defender Luke Shaw said the victory had given his team-mates hope of catching Chelsea and qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Chelsea are fourth in the table, three points clear of United, after following up their loss to the Red Devils with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham.

Shaw told Sky Sports: "We got what we needed and that was three points. Let's keep pushing.

"The most important thing is we closed the gap to Chelsea.

"This club is known for playing in the big competitions. We all miss the Champions League nights so much – that is what we want next season.

"We need to fight and earn it."

Bruno Fernandes is determined to propel Manchester United back into the Champions League after he scored his first goal for the club in an impressive 3-0 victory over Watford at Old Trafford.

The Portugal international was inspirational for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side on Sunday, scoring their first from the penalty spot and then having a hand in goals for Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood as the Red Devils moved up to fifth in the Premier League table.

Fernandes, who sent Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster the wrong way with a skip in his run-up, was delighted to get a first home triumph with his new club – and hopes there are plenty more to come this season.

"This is the day every player wants to have," Fernandes said. "I had the luck to score and win the game. We all gave our best and gave an excellent game, finally my first win at home.

"Everyone knows we want to take a Champions League place. It's not new for anybody. I'm just here to help the team to conquer this place and keep winning games."

On his penalty technique, he added: "It's the way I shoot a penalty. I feel confident shooting this way. I don't shoot just in that way but today I think it was the best way to score, so I just tried and was lucky enough to score."

Fernandes aimed a friendly dig at team-mate Martial, who denied him an assist in the process of scoring United's second.

Martial received the ball from Fernandes and fired a shot that Foster saved, only for the France international to chip the ball beyond the keeper at the second attempt.

Fernandes did set up Greenwood to score with a rocket of a shot, and he pointed out that it could easily have been two assists.

"I hope Anthony scores more goals when I pass the ball to him and not him miss the goal and take the ball again, because if he scores it's two assists," said Fernandes.

"Last week he said he never scores on my assist, but I think it's not my fault!"

He added: "I just need to help the team. This is what I want to do and what I need to do."

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.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Anthony Martial to reach 20 goals for Manchester United this season but wants the striker to toughen up.

Martial scored for the 14th time in all competitions on Thursday to earn a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Europa League last-32 tie with Club Brugge.

That goal came just three days after the forward's expert header put United ahead in their 2-0 Premier League win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

No United player has reached 20 in a single campaign since Romelu Lukaku in 2017-18 and, although Marcus Rashford is on 19 for 2019-20, his back injury is likely to see him miss almost all of the rest of the season.

Solskjaer thinks Martial is showing signs of getting used to playing as a centre-forward after time spent as a winger, and he expects to see the 24-year-old keep up his form.

"I think Anthony can step up and get a few more and get to the 20-mark, definitely," Solskjaer said.

"He's got quality, of course. He's a very good finisher, he takes his chances really well, good technique in his finishing, and he's good receiving the ball at times, dropping off, he can play almost like a false nine at times.

"Sometimes, I'd like him to be stronger physically."

Describing Martial's header against Chelsea as "a 1980s centre-forward goal", Solskjaer added: "I'm encouraged by his attitude this season as well, wanting to do those things that are not natural to him. But you've got to make him a number nine again after playing wide for so many years. Marcus and Anthony have played wide until the last 12 months, really."

Solskjaer wants to see a more clinical United against Watford on Sunday, having been deeply disappointed with the performance of his players in a 2-0 defeat at Vicarage Road in December.

The United boss hopes January arrivals Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo – who spent three years with Watford – will add a greater cutting edge to his side.

"That was a very disappointing game. We should have won that one. We gifted them the two goals and we had chances to pull away ourselves, but you can't win games if you don't take your chances," he said.

"I feel that with Bruno coming in, with Odion coming in, we'll get more goals. That's been lacking in the games we've lost: West Ham, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, we've had chances and not taken them. You can see that Bruno gives us another dimension."

United could be boosted by the return of Scott McTominay at Old Trafford, the midfielder having been sidelined since December 26 with a knee injury.

"I think he might be in the squad," Solskjaer said.

"I'm not surprised [by his quick return] because that's the type he is. He's a physical specimen, he's a leader, he never shirks a tackle and he brings everyone with him. And he can sit with Nemanja [Matic] or Fred or be one of the runners in midfield.

"We were talking here today how we don't have enough runs past the striker. He used to be a striker, so he's used to being in the box."

Thursday's draw in Brugge was another match where Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes were not involved, the youngsters instead having played in a youth game.

The future of the pair is unclear as they enter the final stages of their United contracts, but Solskjaer appears keen for them to stay.

"We're still in talks with them," he said. "Tahith scored today. He'd rather play a game than sit in the stands here, so it's making sure he's ready when he gets a chance. He played really well against Wolves in the FA Cup.

"The boys have got great attitude, they're absolutely top-class boys and we're doing what we can to keep them. In a few years, you can see them being very, very good players."

Everton's brilliant resurgence under Carlo Ancelotti continued with a comfortable 3-1 win over struggling Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Saturday.

The Toffees were in the relegation zone when Marco Silva was sacked in December, but victory against Palace – who have now lost three in a row – leaves Everton just five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

Bernard put Everton ahead in the 18th minute when he volleyed home Theo Walcott's delivery and the hosts remained in charge until early in the second half, as Jordan Pickford allowed Christian Benteke's effort to go under him.

Everton were back in front soon after, however – Richarlison darting through the Palace defence before finding the bottom corner.

Palace did threaten another equaliser, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin converted from close range late on after Richarlison's headed attempt came back off the crossbar, wrapping up a fifth Premier League win in eight matches for Everton. 

At the Amex Stadium, an Adrian Mariappa own goal prevented Watford lifting themselves out of the bottom three, as Brighton and Hove Albion claimed a 1-1 draw.

Abdoulaye Doucoure gave Watford a 19th-minute lead with a fine finish from just outside the area after Aaron Mooy had squandered possession.

There were few other moments of excitement until Brighton levelled 11 minutes from time – Mariappa, under no pressure, emphatically sending an Alireza Jahanbakhsh cross into his own net.

Watford remain in the relegation zone, while Brighton stay three points better off in 15th.

Liverpool opened up a whopping 22-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League as four second-half goals saw them cruise past Southampton 4-0 at Anfield on Saturday.

The Reds were lucky to not be behind at the break after a chaotic first half, but normal service was resumed after the interval as they racked up a 16th consecutive top-flight triumph.

Merseyside rivals Everton, meanwhile, came from two goals down to edge past Watford 3-2 in a thrilling game at Vicarage Road.

Antonio Rudiger scored twice as Chelsea and Leicester City played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium, while there were wins for Sheffield United and Bournemouth over Crystal Palace and Aston Villa respectively.

Brighton and Hove Albion came from two goals down to draw 3-3 at West Ham, while bottom side Norwich City held Newcastle United to a goalless draw at St James' Park.

SALAH AT THE DOUBLE FOR RELENTLESS REDS

Mohamed Salah scored twice as runaway leaders Liverpool produced a second-half surge to seal a comprehensive victory over Southampton.

Jurgen Klopp's world champions secured a 24th win from 25 top-flight games this season, with Salah striking twice in the last 18 minutes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring in the 47th minute against his former club, unleashing a low drive past Alex McCarthy, before Jordan Henderson doubled their lead on the hour mark.

RUDIGER HEADS BRACE IN LANDMARK MATCH

Rudiger marked his 100th appearance for Chelsea with an unlikely brace but Frank Lampard's side were unable to secure maximum points.

Chelsea went ahead a minute into the second half at the King Power Stadium when Rudiger nodded in Mason Mount's corner.

Their lead lasted less than 10 minutes, Harvey Barnes drawing Leicester level with the aid of a deflection off Reece James to give Willy Caballero - picked ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga - no chance.

Ben Chilwell put the hosts ahead with a cool finish in the 64th minute, but the Blues claimed a share of the spoils to stay eight points behind third-placed Leicester when Rudiger headed home his second 19 minutes from time.

TOFFEES STING HORNETS WITH LATE STRIKE

Everton's Theo Walcott scored in the 90th minute to complete a remarkable turnaround against Watford.

Adam Masina and Roberto Pereyra had put the Hornets 2-0 up, but defender Yerry Mina scored twice in first-half stoppage time to haul Carlo Ancelotti's side level.

Everton's hopes of sealing all three points looked to be over when Fabian Delph was dismissed 13 minutes from time for two yellow cards, but Walcott steered home after a quick break to send the travelling faithful into raptures.  

Manchester United will face Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday after the League One side defeated Watford 2-1.

With their initial replay called off due to a waterlogged pitch, Tranmere - who came back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Vicarage Road - and Watford met at Prenton Park on Thursday - just two days after the Hornets' Premier League defeat to Aston Villa.

Nigel Pearson subsequently made wholesale changes and, though Kaylen Hinds' 68th-minute effort cancelled out Emmanuel Monthe's first-half opener, Watford succumbed in extra-time.

Substitute Paul Mullin, who scored a late spot-kick in the first meeting between the sides, was Tranmere's hero - heading in the winner to set up a mouth-watering tie with 12-time winners United.

Chelsea failed to make the most of their numerical advantage as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in a thrilling London derby that included a late goal from either side.

Much of the pre-match focus was on the two managers, with Frank Lampard beginning to come in for a bit of criticism after a difficult run, while Mikel Arteta has been accused of doing little to improve Arsenal's fortunes since coming in.

And there were plenty of hints as to why the sides are out of form, with the two sets of defences failing to inspire a great deal of confidence. 

Manchester City avoided dropping points, however, with a substitute sparing their blushes in a 1-0 win at Sheffield United, while there was plenty of drama at the bottom of the table.

DAVID LUIZ SEES RED BUT ARSENAL CLING ON

It was an unhappy return to Stamford Bridge for former Chelsea defender David Luiz, who was given a frosty reception and then sent off for a cynical foul that led to a penalty.

From that spot-kick, Jorginho opened the scoring in the 28th minute, suggesting Chelsea were set to cruise.

But a wonderful solo effort from Gabriel Martinelli restored parity just after the hour, leaving Lampard looking a little nervous.

Chelsea retook the lead with what they thought was a winner from Cesar Azpilicueta, the captain turning in a left-wing cross.

But Hector Bellerin's well-placed left-footed effort from the edge of the box found the bottom-left corner and secured the Gunners a share of the spoils, a commendable achievement given their disadvantage. The draw moves Arsenal up to 10th, while Chelsea go six points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United.

AGUERO THE DIFFERENCE FOR CITY

City handed Aymeric Laporte his first appearance since August at Bramall Lane, the Frenchman having recovered from a serious knee injury.

But he was given some rough treatment by the Blades – with Muhamed Besic catching him with a heavy challenge early on.

City did enough in the first half to take the lead, but Dean Henderson was in excellent form between the United posts, making several impressive saves and keeping out Gabriel Jesus' penalty.

But the visitors' persistence paid off. Sergio Aguero came off the bench to get the winner 17 minutes from time, finishing clinically after a glorious pass from Kevin De Bruyne.

That moves them six clear of Leicester City in third, though the 13-point gap behind leaders Liverpool remains daunting.

CHERRIES STOP THE ROT

After six matches – five of which ended in defeat – without a victory, Bournemouth finally got back to winning ways against Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday.

Harry Wilson got the ball rolling with a driven effort from the edge of the box after Dominic Solanke teed him up in the 36th minute.

Pascal Gross then put past his own goalkeeper just before the break, diverting in after a Bournemouth corner caused havoc in the visitors' box.

Callum Wilson then wrapped up a comfortable win 16 minutes from time, rounding Mat Ryan and slotting in unchallenged, with Aaron Mooy's late effort a mere consolation in a 3-1 defeat for the Seagulls.

It was not enough to move Bournemouth out of the bottom three, though – Aston Villa's last-gasp 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Watford decisive in that sense, as Tyrone Mings got the all-important clincher.

NEWCASTLE STUN EVERTON WITH COMEBACK

Everton looked to be easing to a 2-0 win over Newcastle United – but it all went wrong in stoppage time.

Moise Kean initially put Everton in front in the 30th minute with his first Premier League goal, though he required a little luck, as he capitalised on Newcastle's inability to clear the ball and then shot under Martin Dubravka, who probably should have done better.

The in-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin got his 10th top-flight goal of the season early in the second half, but that two-goal cushion was insufficient.

Florian Lejeune was Newcastle's hero, first scoring with an acrobatic attempt after a Jordan Pickford error, then restoring parity with a volley that just about found its way over the line amid a scramble in the penalty box, both goals coming in stoppage time.

There was no such drama at Selhurst Park, however, as Southampton managed to hang on to their 2-0 lead in an ill-tempered affair, moving them into the top half of the table.

Palace's Wilfried Zaha might find himself in danger of retrospective action as well, after television cameras caught him poking James Ward-Prowse in the face during a half-time altercation.

Fernandinho's stoppage-time own goal gave Crystal Palace a 2-2 draw at Manchester City, while Wolves fought back from two down to beat Southampton and Norwich City claimed a huge Premier League win on Saturday.

Cenk Tosun's first Palace goal put the London club in front, but Aguero equalised with his 250th for City eight minutes from time before putting the second-placed champions in front at the Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola's side were unable to see it out, though, as Fernandinho turned the ball into his own net to leave City 13 points behind leaders Liverpool, who play Manchester United in one of their two games in hand on Sunday.

Resurgent Saints looked set to move into the top half when they were two up at St Mary's Stadium, but Raul Jimenez's double after a Pedro Neto strike moved Wolves up to sixth.

Norwich striker Teemu Pukki scored the only goal against second-bottom Bournemouth, who had defender Steve Cook sent off for a spectacular save, while fellow strugglers Aston Villa drew 1-1 at Brighton and Hove Albion.

John Fleck rescued a 1-1 draw for Sheffield United at Arsenal, while it was the same scoreline in the clash between David Moyes' West Ham and his former club Everton.

 

CITY SLIP UP DESPITE AGUERO BRACE 

Palace claimed a stunning 3-2 win at City last season and looked like picking up another three points until Aguero intervened with a late brace.

New boy Tosun headed the Eagles into a first-half lead with his first goal for the club, but the leading overseas scorer in Premier League history levelled to take his City tally to 250 and struck again with time running out.

VAR overturned a penalty decision after Jairo Riedewald was penalised for handball before Aguero equalised and there was more drama when Wilfried Zaha squared the ball, with Fernandinho turning it into his own net.

 

WOLVES BRING SAINTS BACK DOWN TO EARTH

Saints, on a high after five wins and a draw from their last six games, appeared to be making further strides up the table after Jan Bednarek and Shane Long put them in command at half-time.

But Wolves were transformed after the break, Neto giving them hope and the clinical making Jimenez no mistake from the penalty spot following a VAR intervention for Jack Stephens' challenge on Jonny.

Jimenez was on target again to win in 13 minutes from time, Adama Traore setting the striker up with his second assist, to give Wolves a first win in five in all competitions.

 

CHERRIES PAY THE PENALTY FOR IMPULSIVE COOK STOP

Norwich claimed their first top-flight win since November courtesy of a Pukki penalty as Bournemouth endured another miserable afternoon at Carrow Road.

Pukki converted from 12 yards 33 minutes in after Cherries defender Steve Cook made an acrobatic one-handed stop to keep out Kenny McLean's goal-bound shot.

Cook was given his matching orders and there was no way back for Bournemouth, who have picked up only four points from their last 12 games, as Norwich held on despite Ben Godfrey's dismissal 13 minutes from time.

Jose Mourinho offered no specifics when asked when Hugo Lloris could be back in action for Tottenham, after the goalkeeper made his return to training this week.

Lloris has been out since suffering a gruesome dislocated elbow in Spurs' defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion in October.

The France keeper has not played for Mourinho, who replaced Mauricio Pochettino in November, but appears to be edging closer to his first appearance under the Portuguese's stewardship.

Tottenham posted on Twitter on Friday that Lloris had returned to training with the first team, and Mourinho is hopeful of his absence coming to an end next month.

"I told [you] one month ago, I said February. So, the normal thing is February. If you ask me late February or early February, at this moment I go more for early," Mourinho told a media conference.

"Things are going well. He's getting his confidence back, he's training so I would say he's one of our new players in the January transfer window."

One new player Spurs have already brought in is midfielder Gedson Fernandes, who joined on an 18-month loan from Benfica with an option to buy.

Fernandes is set to make his debut when Tottenham visit Watford on Saturday.

"This weekend they can expect him to be involved, starting or not but for sure involved in the team," added Mourinho. 

"When you get players in January, normally it's because you need. And we need because we lost important players for a long time so we need his contribution. Young player, yes, just arrived in a new country, yes, but at the same time he has experience of playing for a big club.

"He has played already big matches, for instance Bayern Munich and Galatasaray away in the Champions League, Europa League quarter-finals, so he's used to a high level of stress, pressure, responsibility.

"He's a kid that can play different positions in midfield, even wide on the right if we need. We got him for his multi-functionality.

"He's what I used to call a special loan. He's not a three-month loan and goodbye. [It's a] one-and-a-half-year loan when he'll have time to develop, and who knows if he doesn't stay here for a number of years."

Watford have signed Argentine winger Ignacio Pussetto from Udinese for a fee reported to be in the region of £7million (€8m).

Pussetto, 24, joined the Serie A outfit from Huracan in 2018 and scored five times in 50 appearances - including one during last month's 3-1 defeat to Juventus, although he has been used predominantly as a substitute this term.

Udinese owner Giampaolo Pozzo is the father of Watford owner Gino Pozzo and transfer business between the clubs has been frequent over recent years.

The Hornets' scheduled FA Cup third-round replay at Tranmere Rovers was postponed due to heavy rainfall on Tuesday.

Recently appointed head coach Nigel Pearson has overseen a sharp upturn in form at Vicarage Road, with four wins from their past five matches lifting them out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Watford's resurgence under Nigel Pearson continued as they beat Bournemouth 3-0 to move out of the Premier League's bottom three for the first time this season.

Goals from Abdoulaye Doucoure, Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra earned the Hornets a third successive top-flight win, with Pearson's side now unbeaten in five matches.

There was a degree of fortune to their opening goal as young Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers chipped straight to Ismaila Sarr, who crossed for Doucoure to finish three minutes before half-time.

Watford dominated after the break and doubled their advantage in the 66th minute when Deeney blasted home following more good work from Sarr, with substitute Pereyra hooking in a third goal in stoppage time.

Ralph Hasenhuttl labelled it a "disaster" and it seemed Southampton would enter a tailspin following their miserable 9-0 home loss to Leicester City in October.

The Saints were a goal behind when Ryan Bertrand was dismissed in the 12th minute, and they shipped eight more in a landslide at St Mary's, suffering the joint-heaviest defeat in Premier League history.

Saturday brings a rematch and Southampton have displayed good humour in the build-up, muting Twitter terms related to the last encounter.

But with a five-game undefeated streak behind them and a European place remarkably not out of reach, a team formerly deemed destined for the drop are on the up.

A review of history with help from Opta data puts the turnaround in clear context, positioning Southampton as potentially the best of the clubs who diced with double-digit defeats.

 

Bouncing back the easy bit

Hasenhuttl expressed bewilderment in the aftermath of the crushing October result, claiming he had "never seen a team act like this" as he criticised the complete lack of fight.

His words drew a reasonable response as Southampton next recorded 2-1 defeats to Manchester City and Everton respectively, before a 2-2 draw at Arsenal that would have been a win if not for Alexandre Lacazette's equaliser deep into stoppage time.

Home wins over Watford and Norwich City followed to provide further proof that psychological scars can be erased in a relatively short period in the Premier League.

In 1999, Sheffield Wednesday sandwiched a single defeat to Sunderland between an 8-0 loss to Newcastle United and a 5-1 win over Wimbledon.

The Black Cats themselves took the same length of time in 2014 to move past an 8-0 mauling at the hands of none other than Southampton, with one game – an away loss at Arsenal – wedged between that and a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Lessons can clearly be learned in the short term, but for most these results augur an eventual battle for survival.

Saints sustain top-half tilt

The loss to Leicester left Southampton in the relegation zone, exactly where they began when Hasenhuttl took over in December 2018.

Skip forward 11 top-flight fixtures to the cusp of this weekend's schedule and the Saints are now a mere five points adrift of sixth-placed Tottenham.

That might mean less with the table congested as it is but, sitting 12th after 21 games, Southampton are poised to set a new standard for teams scolded by defeats of eight goals or more.

Two of the five teams previously beaten by such margins limped on to relegation: the Ipswich Town side of 1994-95, who were in a mess by their time of their then outright-record 9-0 loss to Manchester United, and 19th-placed Wednesday in 1999-2000.

Wigan Athletic suffered two eight-goal losses in 2009-10 and still survived after they finished 16th, which is where Sunderland ended in 2014-15.

Aston Villa, 8-0 losers against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in December 2012, found their way to 15th that season, a high mark that Southampton have the opportunity to exceed as they look ahead to winnable home meetings with Wolves, Burnley and Villa over their next six fixtures.

Watford help chart way forward

Southampton's game against Leicester occurred less than a month after Manchester City's ruthless 8-0 demolition of Watford, and the Hornets are also a team righting their earlier wrongs.

New boss Nigel Pearson's arrival at Vicarage Road has coincided with an upturn that could conceivably have the Hornets out of the bottom three with a win over Bournemouth this weekend.

Never before have two different teams suffered Premier League losses of an eight-goal magnitude or greater in the same campaign.

Together, however, Southampton and Watford are setting about showing how humiliating results need only be regarded as a footnote to the season.

Everton's 100 per cent record under Carlo Ancelotti came unstuck in a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City, but Mikel Arteta and David Moyes got their first victories in charge of West Ham and Arsenal, respectively. 

Arteta, whose Arsenal side put in a much-improved performance, claimed a 2-0 victory over Manchester United, while West Ham crushed Bournemouth 4-0 on the Scot's return to the club.

Danny Ings scored the only goal of the game as Tottenham suffered a surprise 1-0 loss to Southampton, while top-four rivals Chelsea were held 1-1 by Brighton and Hove Albion.

There were also wins for Aston Villa, Leicester City and Watford, along with a draw between Norwich City and Crystal Palace, as 2020 got off to an eventful start, with VAR once again proving to be a big talking point.

Jesus at the double while Noble inspires Hammers

Ancelotti delivered back-to-back wins in his opening two games as Everton boss and his Toffees side frustrated City for 51 minutes in a tight game at the Etihad.

The deadlock was broken by Gabriel Jesus, who scored with a scintillating right-footed shot into the top corner from the edge of the box, and he connected with a Riyad Mahrez pass to score with a low shot seven minutes later.

Richarlison turned Theo Walcott's deflected cross into the net at the far post with 19 minutes left to give Everton hope, but they failed to find an equaliser and suffered a first defeat in six league games.

At London Stadium, Moyes produced a markedly improved performance from West Ham as they strolled to a 4-0 victory over Bournemouth, with captain Mark Noble scoring a brace.

Noble scored with a deflected shot with 17 minutes played and Sebastien Haller found the net via a bicycle kick before the Hammers' skipper converted a first-half penalty.

Felipe Anderson netted with a neat finish when Declan Rice found him with a measured pass, West Ham's fourth wrapping up their biggest margin of victory in the Premier League for over a decade.

 

Arteta off the mark at jubilant Emirates

Arsenal's home faithful were treated to a dominant display and a 2-0 victory over Manchester United that harked back to the days when Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp tormented the Red Devils in north London.

Nicolas Pepe opened the scoring in the eighth minute, firing home from 12 yards after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sead Kolasinac combined to great effect down the Arsenal left.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos doubled the hosts' lead shortly before half-time, lashing high into the net from close range after United failed to clear their lines at a corner, but Arsenal had capitulated from a winning position on this ground against Chelsea three days earlier.

There was to be no turnaround this time, however. The win moves Arsenal up to 10th in the Premier League table, while United remain fifth, but the balance of play suggested the two sides could end the season much closer together.

 

Chelsea held by Jahanbakhsh stunner

Cesar Azpilicueta scored the first Premier League goal of the decade with a close-range finish after Tammy Abraham's shot was blocked by Aaron Mooy, but Chelsea could not get the job done against Brighton.

Jahanbakhsh celebrated with tears of joy after scoring his first goal for Brighton in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday and he did not have to wait long for his second goal.

The Iran winger sent an acrobatic attempt past Kepa Arrizabalaga with six minutes of normal time remaining to deny Frank Lampard's side a third away league win on the spin.

So delighted to be able to help the team again today! Happy new year to everyone  #BHAFC pic.twitter.com/nW7p7E8zMY

— Alireza Jahanbakhsh (@Alirezajb7) January 1, 2020

Foxes march on with win at 10-man Newcastle

Despite being without the Premier League's leading scorer Jamie Vardy for a second game, firstly due to the birth of his child and this time due to a minor injury, Leicester were comfortable 3-0 winners at Newcastle.

The Foxes' incredible campaign continued thanks to goals from former Newcastle attacker Ayoze Perez, James Maddison and substitute Hamza Choudhury.

While Leicester's outside title hopes just about remain intact, moving back to within 10 points of Liverpool after playing two games more than the runaway leaders, a third defeat in a row for Newcastle leaves them five points above the relegation zone.

 

Villa pick up much-needed win while Wickham pegs bag Norwich

Villa boss Dean Smith insisted he still had the support of the dressing room in the build-up to the trip to Burnley, and that showed as Villa returned to winning ways with a 2-1 triumph at Turf Moor that saw them climb out of the relegation zone.

Wesley got the first goal after 27 minutes and the Villans added a second on the stroke of half-time when Jack Grealish scored his sixth Premier League goal in his 19th appearance this season.

Chris Wood pulled one back from Burnley's first shot on target in the 80th minute, though it was not enough to prevent a third successive loss for Sean Dyche's out-of-form side.

Meanwhile, Todd Cantwell put Norwich City ahead after just four minutes of their clash with Palace, who battled bravely to stay in the game before substitute Connor Wickham turned Wilfried Zaha's cross into the net five minutes from time to earn his side a share of the points.

Kane limps off for stuttering Spurs, Watford's revival continues

Danny Ings scored the 16th goal Tottenham have conceded in their last 11 matches when he lifted the ball over Toby Alderweireld and fired past Paulo Gazzaniga for what proved to be the only goal of the game after 17 minutes at St. Mary's.

Tottenham have taken only four points from the 12 on offer over the festive period and their misery was compounded by Harry Kane limping off after hurting his hamstring, and Jose Mourinho was shown a yellow card by referee Mike Dean late on after being involved in touchline confrontation.

Watford maintained their impressive form with a 2-1 win at home to Wolves after Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring half an hour in with a curled finish into the bottom corner.

Abdoulaye Doucoure fired in on his 27th birthday to double the home side's tally, but Pedro Neto reduced the deficit with a deflected shot on the hour and Christian Kabasele was sent off with 19 minutes to play.

Wolves could not find a way past Ben Foster again, though, meaning just a third loss in 16 league outings for Nuno Espirito Santo's men.

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