Christian Eriksen is confident Manchester United are on a "good road" and praised the qualities of his fellow Red Devils midfielders. 

Although United lost to Real Sociedad in the Europa League last time out, their Premier League fortunes have seen a vast improvement since Erik ten Hag lost his first two games in charge last month.

A 3-1 home win over Arsenal last Sunday made it four successive league victories for United – their best winning run since April 2021.

Eriksen created a team-high three chances and recorded 33 successful passes (also a team-high) against the Gunners, as well as teeing up Marcus Rashford's second goal.

Only Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes (both 10) have created more Premier League chances than Eriksen for United this campaign (eight). Meanwhile, Fernandes (539) is the only Red Devils midfielder to rack up more Premier League minutes than Eriksen's 532 under Ten Hag.


Speaking to the club's website, Eriksen said United's midfielders were adapting well to the new boss's methods. 

"Everyone has different qualities and it's up to the manager who he's going to put down to play in which games and see what qualities will work," Eriksen said.

"Take Casemiro coming in and showing how strong he is already, being a winner. And Fred and Donny [van de Beek] have played for many years – it's a decent midfield.

"Scott [McTominay] has done very well and I think you can see that from the games. I think in the first few games, we were looking for each other a bit and seeing where we are. 

"But now I think we are starting to get a good connection and a good feeling of where you should be, and also because of the instructions of the manager, as he has the positions he would like us to be in. 

"I think it's gone well, but also when you win games it's just easier to look back and the confidence builds up and you forget the small mistakes you make and remember the good things. 

"There are a lot of things we can improve, but it's a good road we're on."

Last season's 6th-placed Premier League finish means United are competing in the Europa League this campaign, but Eriksen believes the strength of their squad – and the allowance of five substitutions – leaves them well-equipped to cope.

"[The whole squad] is going to be very important," he added. "I think this is a good year to have five substitutions.

"It will help the pressure on a lot of the players, and also I think it will give the manager a few more options. 

"The guys who have come on have done very well – they want to prove themselves. And also the guys that have been starting want to prove themselves. 

"So it's a good and strong push that I think we need, because we have a lot of games and there is a lot of quality in the team. We all have to fight for our places."

Following the Premier League's decision to postpone its weekend fixture programme after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, United are back in action on Thursday, travelling to Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League.

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire could be on his way to Stamford Bridge amid reports that Chelsea have enquired about including him in a swap for Christian Pulisic.

Chelsea have been aggressive in their hunt for centre-backs during this transfer period after Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen left the club.

But while they have secured the services of Kalidou Koulibaly, they are still after at least one more, having previously enquired about Matthijs de Ligt, Martin Skriniar and a number of others.

Pulisic has been a recurring name when it comes to players Chelsea are seemingly willing to part ways with, and while a loan move has been weighed up, a swap for Maguire could solve problems for both clubs if United feel he is no longer part of Erik ten Hag's vision.

 

TOP STORY – BLOCKBUSTER SWAP COULD SEND UNITED CAPTAIN TO CHELSEA

Chelsea have made their interest in 21-year-old Leicester City centre-back Wesley Fofana clear, but if they are not willing to meet the gaudy £85millon asking price, a swap deal for a player surplus to requirements would be far more palatable.

For United, who are reportedly operating under a stricter budget, landing a 23-year-old with 19 goals and 10 assists over the past three Premier League seasons in exchange for a 29-year-old centre-back could be exactly what they are looking for, but it all depends on how Ten Hag values Maguire.

According to the Daily Mail's report, there is a belief Maguire may be dropped from United's team set to play Liverpool this weekend, which would only add fuel to the fire.

 

ROUND UP

– The Athletic reports that Chelsea have offered £15million plus left-back Marcos Alonso to Barcelona in their bid for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

– According to the Telegraph, Real Madrid are considering a move for Tottenham's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as a potential replacement for Casemiro.

– 90min claim Newcastle United and West Ham are monitoring United's Scott McTominay if he is squeezed out by the arrival of Casemiro.

Leeds United are hoping to secure a £4m move for 18-year-old FC Zurich striker Willy Gnonto, who became Italy's youngest ever senior international goalscorer in a loss to Germany in June.

– Mail Online reports that Arsenal expect Bukayo Saka to sign a new contract at Emirates Stadium, despite interest from rival clubs including Manchester City.

Scott McTominay hopes a fluke could spark a flood as he attempts to transform himself into a goalscoring Manchester United midfielder.

United beat Melbourne Victory 4-1 after recovering from going behind early, with McTominay's deflected equaliser followed by efforts from Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and an own goal.

McTominay's 20-yard shot looped up wickedly off a defender and soared over goalkeeper Paul Izzo, and it was swiftly followed by a close-range strike from Martial as United snatched a half-time lead.

Scotland international McTominay managed only one Premier League goal last season, having hit four in each of the previous two campaigns.

Bruno Fernandes is the only United midfielder to have topped five league goals in any of those last three seasons, which points to an obvious problem at the heart of the team.

The Red Devils managed just 57 goals in the 2021-22 Premier League, and under new manager Erik ten Hag they will be expected to present as a more potent outfit.

"It's all of us, not just myself. I know I can score more goals," McTominay said. "The manager wants more players in the box, which is where you score goals."

 

The signing of Christian Eriksen on Friday should give United more thrust in that area, while the club are also eager to sign Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong.

McTominay believes the straight-talking Ten Hag has the ideal understanding of how to get the best out of United's playing pool, by avoiding complicating his ideas.

"For us, the level of detail which he's talking about is so easy to understand. All his ideas can come at once, and we can take them on board," McTominay said.

Speaking to MUTV, the Scotland international added: "Whenever we've got a new manager, there's a lot of new ideas and a lot of things we have to take on board, in terms of the ideas the manager wants.

"Everyone's so, so happy with the new coach in terms of the detail and the attention to the work we're doing, and everyone's so fit now, and we can get fitter. I can get fitter and the whole team can, which is obviously a benefit for the future as well."

Ten Hag played different starting XIs in each half as he took another opportunity to look at his wider pool of players, rather than the established stars, just as he did when United beat Liverpool 4-0 on Tuesday.

He felt United were rewarded for persistence and was glad to give outings to Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong, a fringe pair who are fighting to become established in the first-team squad but may be loaned out.

"That's why we took them with us. I wanted to have an impression of all the players," Ten Hag said. "They got the chance to show what they can do, what they are capable of, if they can contribute immediately to Man United or it may be a loan period is better.

"All the possibilities are there, but it is good United had some talents, but they need improvements and they need development."

Ralf Rangnick believes Scott McTominay could be Manchester United captain in "a couple of years" and hailed the "outstanding" David de Gea following a 1-0 FA Cup win over Aston Villa.

McTominay scored the only goal of the third-round contest at Old Trafford on Monday, heading home midfield partner Fred's inviting whipped cross after only seven minutes.

That was enough for the Red Devils to set up a fourth-round tie at home to Championship side Middlesbrough, but Villa were unfortunate to crash out as they were the better side.

Danny Ings had a goal ruled out for a foul by Jacob Ramsey on Edinson Cavani following a lengthy VAR check, referee Michael Oliver eventually making the decision after being told to check the pitchside monitor.

Ollie Watkins struck the crossbar in the first half and also had a goal disallowed due to Ings being offside soon after his fellow striker's goal was chalked off.

Amid talk of unrest in the United dressing room following a 1-0 defeat to Wolves, there was relief for Rangnick after a fortunate victory.

The interim Red Devils boss picked out McTominay and De Gea for praise after an unconvincing display from his side.

Asked about McTominay's contribution, he told BBC Sport: "He is an academy boy, his energy is amazing. He now also starts scoring goals and also with some leadership skills.

"I wouldn't be surprised if in a couple of years he would be the captain of this team."

He added: "We have to develop the team into a clean sheet team and that was another one today but still David de Gea was outstanding again for me today.

"I would have wanted him to have less saves in total, I think we had four or five shots on goal but again we can still improve even in that area."

Despite United being second best for the majority of the game, Rangnick said there were signs they are improving.

Asked if he had seen progress in the performance, he replied: "Yes. To say that this was a perfect game, nobody would believe that of course it was not.

"We still have quite a few things we can get better at, but the clean sheet was important today and we worked together. There are still a lot of things to improve but it is easier to do that with a 1-0 win."

Scott McTominay's early header gave Manchester United a fortunate 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the third round of the FA Cup.

McTominay scored his second goal of the season after only seven minutes at Old Trafford on Monday and that was enough to set up a fourth-round tie at home to Middlesbrough.

Villa were the better side, but it was a frustrating night for boss Steven Gerrard in the Liverpool legend's first trip to United as a manager, with Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings having second-half goals disallowed.

Gerrard's side had plenty of chances to at least force extra time in a breathless encounter, but United responded with a victory amid talk of unrest in the camp following a defeat against Wolves.

McTominay got the Red Devils off to a great start, nodding Fred's superb whipped cross from the right beyond Emiliano Martínez

Villa took that early blow on the chin and David de Gea made a fine save to keep out John McGinn's rasping drive, before Watkins rattled the crossbar after producing a lovely piece of skill to beat Victor Lindelof following a poor mistake from the Sweden defender.

Jacob Ramsey's shot deflected narrowly wide as Villa continued to apply the pressure, but they needed a Matty Cash block to keep out Bruno Fernandes' goal-bound strike and a sharp Martinez save from Luke Shaw's long-drive thunderbolt to avoid going two goals behind in an entertaining first half.

Ings thought he had equalised from inside the six-yard box five minutes into the second half, but referee Michael Oliver ruled the goal out for a foul by Ramsey on Edinson Cavani.

There was more frustration for Villa soon after when Watkins applied the finish but Ings had strayed just offside before he raced clear and failed to beat De Gea.

The busy De Gea then palmed Cash's well-struck effort around the post before getting a fingertip on Watkins' strike and although United fans voiced their fury when Marcus Rashford failed to react as the ball went loose following Martinez's save from Mason Greenwood, they were able to celebrate reaching round four.

Manchester United certainly can't be accused of standing still this year. A day after sealing the signing of Jadon Sancho, they confirmed a new contract for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer until at least 2024.

But there's still plenty to press on with for Solskjaer and United. While the signing of Sancho addresses one area that has been a problem in recent years, it appears there are still two glaring weaknesses in the first-choice starting XI.

It would seem United have identified the man to take care of one of them, with Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane reportedly set to bolster their defensive options. In one sense it will have been a signing long in the making, given the club were supposedly close to buying him from Lens as a teenager only for Los Blancos to get the deal over the line in the end.

Although it took Varane a little time to truly establish himself at the Santiago Bernabeu, he's gone on to enjoy a hugely successful time in the Spanish capital, winning three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns, among a host of other trophies.

Below, Stats Perform delves into the Opta data to see how Varane might improve United and where else they could do with reinforcements.

 

Physical dominance is the key

There are some obvious strengths that Varane would bring to United at the back – chief among them is his pace, which they arguably don't have a great deal of at centre-back.

While Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire may not be considered painfully slow, neither boasts the same kind of speed as the Frenchman and that would undoubtedly be a considerable asset for United.

Recent reports have suggested Solskjaer wants to play more attack-minded football in 2021-22, and having a faster centre-back could be crucial in that sense.

In theory, it would allow United to play slightly higher up the pitch. While they didn't exactly defend deep in 2020-21, their average starting position of 42.3 metres from their own goal was deeper than six other teams – Varane's pace could potentially provide them with a little more security in a high line.

In terms of possession, there's not a great deal separating Varane and Lindelof, the man whose position is surely in doubt. The Sweden international averaged fractionally more successful passes (58.1 to 55.9) and accurate passes in the opposing half (17.81 to 17.77) per 90 minutes last season, but that could be a reflection of slightly differing styles of play implemented by the teams rather than ability.

Opta sequence data suggests they are similar as well. While Lindelof (14) may have been involved in four more goal-ending passing sequences, the expected goals (xG) value attached to Varane in those instances is actually higher (8.9 to 8.8), meaning the current United man's influence is likely being exaggerated by particularly good finishing from his team-mates.

Even their ball carrying tendencies aren't hugely different, though Lindelof does boast a greater average carry distance of 11.3m to 10.9m, while his average progress up the pitch of 5.7m is a minor improvement on the 5.4m posted by the Madrid man.

But it could be argued United don't need their right-sided centre-back to be forward-thinking all the time because that's one of Maguire's key strengths. If anything, having a dependable partner could allow for their captain to have even greater prominence going forward, as he may feel more relaxed about stepping up with better protection behind.

 

And that's where Varane could really shine as an upgrade on Lindelof. The Swede's effectiveness in physical duels has been routinely questioned since he joined from Benfica in 2017 – a prime example being when Mbaye Diagne bullied him as West Brom scored in their 1-1 draw with United in February.

While it's impossible to guarantee Varane wouldn't have also been dominated in that instance, he does have a better record in situations where physicality is important. In 2020-21, he won 2.4 aerial duels per game across all competitions compared to Lindelof's 1.8.

That equates to a 72.3 per cent success rate for Varane, as opposed to 59.4 for Lindelof. In fact, Maguire – the most dominant defender in that respect in the Premier League last season (100 duels or more) – only marginally edges the World Cup winner (72.9 per cent).

But when we broaden the comparison to encompass all duels, Varane comes out on top among all three of them (66.5 per cent). Maguire wins 63.8 per cent of those contests, whereas that drops to 53.1 per cent for Lindelof.

United fans have been crying out for a more physically dominant defender to partner Maguire, and in Varane they may have identified a centre-back to rival him in those stakes.

Is the Fred-McTominay axis necessary?

Centre-back certainly isn't the only area United fans would be eager to see an upgrade – there's little doubt they have room for growth in midfield, regardless of whether or not Paul Pogba leaves.

The Frenchman actually featured more from the left during the second half of 2020-21 and looked more comfortable out there with some creative freedom, rather than sitting behind Bruno Fernandes in the middle.

That meant Fred and Scott McTominay were, more often than not, the first-choice pairing at the base of the midfield.

Now, it must be said that both players have clearly improved significantly over the past couple of years and they do offer a lot to United in certain areas.

 

For instance, in the Premier League in 2020-21, Fred won possession more often than any other United player (228) and his 81 tackle attempts were only bettered by Aaron Wan-Bissaka (88). McTominay ranked fourth for tackles (51) and joint-second for fouls won (42), which speaks to his improved ability on the ball as well as a knack for relieving defensive pressure in transition.

But neither are particularly creative. Fred laid on 25 key passes with an expected assists (xA) value of 2.1, while McTominay created 17 chances that combined to an xA total of 0.7.

Of course, you can't expect every outfield player to offer creativity. In many cases a player's productivity – or lack of – is intrinsically linked to the role they're playing or system they're part of, and Fernandes has done a lot of the heavy lifting. But United are a side who generally have more of the ball than their opponents – do they need two 'destroyers'?

 

If Solskjaer is to implement a more forward-thinking setup in 2021-22, he would be wise to finally ditch the Fred-McTominay axis. More often than not, it comes across as extremely conservative.

 

But the caveat to that is Solskjaer's rather limited options. Donny van de Beek endured a pretty dreadful first season as he showed very little authority whenever he played, Pogba was more useful towards the left so his lack of work rate off the ball wasn't exposed, and Nemanja Matic just isn't athletic enough anymore even if he is still a talented ball-player.

Pressure now on Ole

Who's to say if another midfielder, Varane and Sancho will be enough to overthrow Manchester City while also holding off a Liverpool side who promise to be back with a vengeance and defending European champions Chelsea.

But such decisive addressing of the team's weak points should at least give Solskjaer the right tools to work with. It'll then be on him to prove conclusively he's the right man for the job, because further under-achieving with such a strong squad won't be tolerated for long, regardless of his new contract.

Jose Mourinho was sacked less than a year after signing his renewal in January 2018.

Croatia and Scotland face a must-win showdown at Hampden Park in Euro 2020 Group D – something that is not ideal for Zlatko Dalic's side.

In five previous meetings with Scotland, Croatia have never won (D3 L2). They have only faced world champions France (eight times) and reigning Euros kings Portugal (seven) more often without tasting victory.

But Scotland have been hit by a COVID-19 positive for Billy Gilmour after the Chelsea midfielder's man-of-the-match showing in the 0-0 draw with England.

That game at Wembley engendered a feelgood factor around Steve Clarke's squad, despite the fact they remain without a goal or a win in their two matches at the tournament so far.

Indeed, despite the impressive work overall of front two Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes last time out, Scotland have failed to score in five of their past eight matches at major tournaments (W1 D3 L4), with their 30 shots at Euro 2020 all fruitless.

"There’s been a good mood around the camp since we played England," Clarke said.

"I think the performance more than the result is what pleased us. We needed something from the game to make the last game the cup final it is, and we’re all looking forward to it."

Like Scotland, Croatia's haul of one point from two games means victory and hoping to finish as one of the four best third-place teams looks their most likely route through.

"I want this Croatia side to have support from the public, they deserve that, they deserve it for everything they've done for Croatian football," Dalic said. "As long as we have a chance to qualify, we need support."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Scotland – Scott McTominay

Gilmour's absence leaves a question mark over how Steve Clarke will use McTominay for this crunch clash. The Manchester United player reverted to a place in the back three against England, where he was a calming influence – his 54 touches more than any other Scotland player. When he featured in central midfield for the 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic, no team-mate bettered McTominay's two tackles or three interceptions.

Croatia – Ivan Perisic

Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic are sorely missed and Luka Modric might be straining for the memory of his Ballon d'Or-winning form, but Croatia still have Perisic to fire their hopes of progress. The Inter winger's blistering strike to snatch a 1-1 draw against the Czechs kept them above water in the competition. It also made him the first Croatia player to score at four different major tournaments, with eight goals in such matches overall.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

– None of the five matches between Croatia and Scotland have produced more than two goals.
– Scotland have only lost one of their past nine matches at Hampden Park, their opening reverse against the Czech Republic. They last suffered consecutive defeats there in 2019.
– Croatia have won only two of their previous 11 international matches across all competitions (D3 L6) and are winless in their past four (D2 L2). Scotland are looking to avoid failing to score in three consecutive competitive matches for the first time since three games between November 2003 and October 2004.
– Nikola Vlasic is the sole midfielder with five or more goals and five or more assists in each of the past three campaigns in the Russian Premier League. The only other player to do so in the competition is Zenit striker Artem Dzyuba.
– Andrej Kramaric is one of the three players to have scored 10 or more goals in each of the past five Bundesliga seasons, alongside Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the pain of the late collapse against Everton inspired Manchester United to edge past West Ham in the FA Cup fifth round.

Scott McTominay's goal, seven minutes into extra-time, earned United a 1-0 win over the Hammers in a match the Red Devils dominated, leading the shot count 17-3.

Three days earlier, Solskjaer's side let a 2-0 lead slip and then conceded a stoppage-time equaliser in a 3-3 draw against Everton that dented their Premier League title bid.

Following some soul-searching after dropping the precious points at Old Trafford, Solskjaer believes United responded in the best way possible to advance to the FA Cup quarter-finals.

"We needed to have a good result and a good feeling today because we were low after the Everton game. It's hard to take but they were really focused and did the job," Solskjaer said.

"Of course you want to win every game. We want to challenge and we want to go to the final. That's what we're here at Manchester United for.

"Sometimes you're lucky with draws in the cup – we haven't been that lucky – but obviously we move another step closer to the final."

Manchester United eventually saw off West Ham 1-0 after extra-time to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, substitute Scott McTominay getting the winner at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the opportunity to give a few United fringe players opportunities to impress but ultimately had to turn to his regulars on the bench, with McTominay the one to make the difference.

United were frustrated in the first half as they struggled to make the most of their dominance over a West Ham side who offered very little in attack, with Victor Lindelof going closest for the hosts when denied by the upright.

Aside from United managing fewer shots, the pattern of the match hardly deviated after the break and it was no surprise to see it remain goalless at the end of the regulation 90 minutes.

But the hosts' superiority told in the end with West Ham unable to cancel out McTominay's 97th-minute strike.

It quickly became apparent that West Ham's plan was to pack their defence with as many players as possible and it was nearly undone just 11 minutes in, but Anthony Martial was denied by a crucial Angelo Ogbonna intervention that resulted in the Italian sustaining an injury.

But United's best chance fell to Lindelof in the 27th minute, his header from an Alex Telles corner taking a slight deflection before Lukasz Fabianski tipped it on to the post.

West Ham lost Ogbonna's replacement Issa Diop – who had clashed heads with Martial – at half-time as the recently introduced concussion substitution was used for the first time in English football, and they soon saw Andriy Yarmolenko forced off as well, former Manchester United trainee Ademipo Odubeko replacing him.

United wasted another chance a minute before Yarmolenko's exit, as Fabianski rushed out to thwart Marcus Rashford after Mason Greenwood's low cross was deflected through.

Extra-time was inevitable despite the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani coming on, but a penalty shootout was not necessary, with McTominay running on to Rashford's smart lay-off and rifling a low volley into the bottom-right corner.

Manchester United's forwards have their "mojo" back after leading Tuesday's remarkable 9-0 demolition of nine-man Southampton at Old Trafford.

It was only the third instance of a team winning a Premier League match by nine goals and the first time United have won by that margin since March 1995, when they beat Ipswich Town by the same score.

While Andy Cole was the five-goal inspiration in that 1995 win, this time United shared the goals around – seven players netted on Tuesday, making it only the second occasion so many different individuals have netted for the same team in a single Premier League match.

Among them were Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani, providing the perfect response to Solskjaer's pre-match comments maligning the loss of his forwards' "mojo".

"Yeah, of course they have," Solskjaer said with a laugh to BT Sport when asked if they had recovered that "mojo".

"You get lots of confidence from a performance like this and the result, scoring goals is always good for forwards and the team."

He added: "We have been waiting for them to show their magic and tonight was a night they could go and enjoy.

"We haven't had too many of those where you can sit down in the second half and enjoy the football, so they enjoyed it. There were some good performances."

Alexandre Jankewitz's red card for a shocking second-minute tackle on Scott McTominay – who was also among the scorers – left Saints with an uphill battle, and Jan Bednarek followed him down the tunnel in the second half in rather more controversial circumstances.

But the focus will be on United's scoring prowess in the contest, as they put Saints to the sword.

Rashford's goal saw him move on to 83 for the club, overtaking Eric Cantona, and Solskjaer took the moment to praise the England international as he has occasionally had to contend with critics urging him to concentrate on his football amid his charitable efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

"That's not bad," Solskjaer said of Rashford surpassing Cantona. "Eric was a fantastic player to play with and Marcus has a great career ahead of him.

"What he's done this season, this year, it just shows he can still focus on his football as well."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described Scott McTominay as a "monster of a human being" after his goal sealed a 1-0 win over Watford in the FA Cup third round on Saturday. 

McTominay, captaining United at Old Trafford, headed home Alex Telles' corner in the fifth minute to secure United's 34th victory from their last 36 third-round ties. 

It was the Scotland international's fourth goal of the season in all competitions, one short of his best tally in a single campaign (five goals in 37 appearances last term).

"Scott has had a very good season," Solskjaer told BBC Sport. "He is being more and more dangerous, we know he can be a box-to-box midfielder.

"He should have scored a few more on set-plays before now because he is a monster of a human being. I am very happy he got the goal."

United did not have it all their own way against the Hornets, who attempted 18 shots in the match – the second-most they have had away from home this season. 

"The most important thing in the cup is that you go through so that will make everyone happy but the first 15-20 minutes I think were the highlights of our game," Solskjaer added. 

"I think we played some very good stuff, created chances and then we let them back into the game but we are through.

"I'm delighted we are through. I told them I didn't expect them to start like a house on fire. I expected them to grow into the game. The opposite happened more or less. We started brightly."

McTominay captained United for the first time and led by example, completing 45 of 56 attempted passes, creating one chance and making a joint team-high three clearances.

The 24-year-old told BT Sport: "When the manager told me it was a surreal moment. 

"I've been here since I had just turned five, so that's 18 or 19 years associated with the club and it is a huge honour. I love this club and it has been my whole life."

McTominay and goalkeeper Dean Henderson were the only two players to keep their places from the side that lost to Manchester City in the EFL Cup on Wednesday and the midfielder acknowledged a general lack of match fitness may have contributed to United's sluggish second-half display. 

"We started really well and then for the first half an hour we were really good, moved the ball really well and there was some good combination play," McTominay added.

"Then we couldn't find it after that as well. The second half I didn't think we played anywhere near our level.

"For the boys coming into the team it is difficult, they haven't played for a long time. The manager said 'get your rhythm' and he probably wasn't expecting the rhythm we got in the first 30 minutes. But then there were some tired minds, but credit to the boys."

Scott McTominay scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United booked their spot in the FA Cup fourth round with a slender 1-0 win over Watford on Saturday. 

McTominay was one of only two survivors from the EFL Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City on Wednesday and the midfielder – captaining the Red Devils for the first time – headed his side in front after just five minutes.  

Eric Bailly and Juan Mata squandered good chances to extend United's lead before the interval, while Dean Henderson had to be alert to thwart Adam Masina.  

United rarely threatened a second during a dismal second half but they saw things out with the minimum of fuss to inflict a 10th straight defeat for the Hornets at Old Trafford.  

The hosts wasted little time stamping their authority on the tie, McTominay heading home his fourth goal of the season from Alex Telles' outswinging corner in the fifth minute.  

United goalkeeper Henderson was out quickly to deny Masina soon after, while Bailly flashed a header wide from another dangerous Telles ball into the penalty area.  

Mata fired straight at Daniel Bachmann following a superb flicked pass from Donny van de Beek as United ultimately failed to add to their advantage before half-time.  

Solskjaer brought on Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial with just over 20 minutes remaining in a desperate bid to inject some life into the home team’s stuttering attack.  

Rashford should have put the seal on the win, but his low effort after a fine run was too close to Bachmann.

 

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