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Fernandes shows shades of Scholes and Veron to lift sluggish Red Devils up to fifth

Manchester United 3 Watford 0

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Bruno Fernandes celebrates after putting Manchester United ahead against Watford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Bruno Fernandes celebrates after putting Manchester United ahead against Watford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

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Bruno Fernandes celebrates after putting Manchester United ahead against Watford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

It takes a certain confidence to step up to take your first penalty in only your third appearance for Manchester United and do what Bruno Fernandes did here. Miss and you would be the butt of derision, but then the Portugal midfielder did not look like a man in any doubt he would score.

The pressure was acute. United had been disappointing up to that point, Watford encouraged and the home supporters' frustration was starting to grow as half-time approached, but none of that seemed to register with Fernandes as he trotted up to the ball with a serene conviction.

If anything, he looked a little too casual, but he knew exactly what he wanted to do, jumping as he feigned to shoot, throwing the Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster the wrong way and creating the space in the process to slot nonchalantly into the bottom corner.

"I wasn't in doubt about what he would do," Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the United manager, said.

It was some way to claim your first goal for the club, and a welcome injection of quality into what had been a distinctly low-rent game, as United started abysmally, but Watford lacked the composure to punish their mistakes.

It also set United on the way to a valuable three points as Solskjaer's side claimed back-to-back league wins for only the third time since he was appointed permanent manager last March, to move up to fifth.

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Craig Cathcart and Harry Maguire battle for possession. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Craig Cathcart and Harry Maguire battle for possession. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

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Craig Cathcart and Harry Maguire battle for possession. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Fernandes has a long way to go before he can stand comparison to being in "the mix of Scholes and Veron" Solskjaer (pictured) was espousing here.

But he appears emboldened, not intimidated, by his surroundings and United looked all the better for the presence of their new £47 million signing in the No 10 role, linking the play and passing forwards with purpose and positivity.

Chopped

Having won and converted the penalty, racing on to Daniel James's pass only to be chopped down by the onrushing Foster, Fernandes then had a hand in United's other two goals.

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Mason Greenwood's effort makes it 3-0 to United. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Mason Greenwood's effort makes it 3-0 to United. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Action Images via Reuters

Mason Greenwood's effort makes it 3-0 to United. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

The second was deftly dispatched by Anthony Martial, the third bludgeoned home by Mason Greenwood, and only Harry Maguire will know how he headed wide a majestic Fernandes cross.

With Scott McTominay also returning after eight weeks out with injury, United's midfield suddenly looks much improved.

"In today's market, I think we got a good deal," Solskjaer said.

"It means more than just getting a player in. The fans are used to players with that personality, mentality and quality.

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Odion Ighalo tries to round Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Odion Ighalo tries to round Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

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Odion Ighalo tries to round Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

"Some players take time in warming up, but he felt confident right away. It is a bit of a mix between Scholes and Veron - the temperament of Veron and a lot of the quality of Scholesy. He is a big piece of what we are trying to put together."

Solskjaer had axed Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira from his squad following their anaemic displays in Thursday's drab draw against Club Brugge. In truth, though, there were plenty of others who looked fortunate to have kept their places.

Perhaps a few of them had stayed up until the early hours to watch Tyson Fury deck Deontay Wilder, but the only team who seemed likely to land a telling punch in the first half before Fernandes's intervention were Watford.

A dreadful mix-up between Maguire and Nemanja Matic in the third minute had sent Troy Deeney through, but the Watford striker took one touch too many when the ball was crying out to be smacked or laid off to Will Hughes.

Deeney's hesitation allowed Luke Shaw to snuff out the danger, an interception that set the tone for a fine display from the left-back.

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Manchester United's Tahith Chong (centre) watches his effort on goal. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Manchester United's Tahith Chong (centre) watches his effort on goal. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

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Manchester United's Tahith Chong (centre) watches his effort on goal. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

"The start we had was an absolute shambles," Solskjaer conceded.

United improved once in front, although it would have been interesting to see how they would have reacted had Deeney's goal soon after the restart not been ruled out by the video assistant referee for handball by Craig Dawson.

Martial got the second after a quick United breakaway. James flicked the ball into Shaw, who found Fernandes. His pass released Martial, whose initial shot was saved by Foster before the Frenchman regained his composure and, after turning Etienne Capoue, dinked the ball over the goalkeeper.

Maguire headed Fernandes's superb cross-cum-pass wide before Greenwood dispossessed Hughes in his own half, surged forward and passed to Fernandes, while carrying on his run.

Greenwood pointed to where he wanted the ball returned, Fernandes obliged and the 18-year-old did the rest, dumping Christian Kabasele on the ground with one drop of the shoulder before crashing an unstoppable drive into the top corner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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