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  • Alessandro Schiavone

Watford deny Cristiano Ronaldo and Man United all three points with spirited display in 0-0 draw

Watford survived a flurry of chances to hold Manchester United to a goalless draw at Old Trafford.

If today was a free hit for Roy Hodgson’s men, given that Manchester United hadn’t lost in 10 games across all competitions coupled with their own plight, exacerbated by a 4-1 home trashing against Crystal Palace in midweek, the unlikely 0-0 draw may not have vastly strengthened their survival prospects but at least restored some of their bruised pride.

And African Cup of Nations winner Ismaila Sarr, who was invisible throughout, even had a late chance to wrap up all three points but his curled finish went off target.

The Hornets dealt Manchester United’s hopes of a top-four finish a hammer blow, and with games against Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool up next and Arsenal having three games in hand on them, their best route to Champions League qualification may be if they win the big-ears trophy itself this season.

But if their end product doesn't improve that will be no mean feat either.

Cristiano Ronaldo had an afternoon to forget and things could not have started any worse for the Portuguese superstar as Watford survived a barrage of chances.

After only three minutes the ex-Juventus talisman fired a low effort against the post from close-range after Aaron Wan-Bissaka superbly teed him up in the box.

It was then Anthony Elanga’s turn to squander a gilt-edged opportunity when he fired his volley over the crossbar before Ben Foster produced a top-drawer save to repel Bruno Fernandes who was through on goal.

Ronaldo, who spearheaded Man United’s attack, then had a tap-in chalked off for offside on 15 minutes.

Four minutes later, Paul Pogba sent in a cross for Fernandes but the Portuguese fluffed his lines again by steering his effort wide of the near post after perfectly timing his run into the box.

Man United’s lack of cutting edge cost them as the Vicarage Road outfit rode their luck again when Ronaldo almost pounced on some poor defending by Craig Cathcart.

He collected the loose ball, skipped around Foster before centring for Fernandes who headed over short of the hour-mark.

If sitting off Ralf Rangnick’s side was Roy Hodgson’s game plan all along it worked a treat as the relegation-battling Hornets were level at half-time.

And things didn’t change after the interval. If anything, Watford drew confidence from their combative performance and successfully weathered the storm on their return from the dressing room.

Emmanuel Dennis made life too easy for David De Gea though, sending an effort straight into his arms seven minutes into the second half.

And four minutes later, Man United wasted their best chance of the game. French World Cup winner Pogba set up Elanga with a no-look back-heel flick but the Swede, who made a telling contribution when he scored the equaliser at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League in midweek, slotted his effort wide.

And on the hour-mark Ronaldo yet again failed to bury his chance, failing to convert his countryman Fernandes’ cutback.

The 37-year-old has only managed one league goal in 2022, in Man United’s 2-0 home win against Brighton nearly two weeks ago, which by his own standards is a meagre return.

And three minutes later the five-time Ballon D’Or winner blew another chance, flicking a header straight into the arms of ex-Man United keeper Foster before Imran Louza tried his luck from distance.

The home side were turning the screw but without success.

And Wan-Bissaka, who shone on the front foot down the right hand side, almost netted a rare goal.

But the ex-Crystal Palace academy graduate planted his header wide after getting in between two defenders following substitute Luke Shaw’s cross from the left after 75 minutes.

And Jadon Sancho, aiming for the far top corner, saw his shot go over the crossbar before Foster did well to hold on to Bruno Fernandes’ firm strike from distance at the death.

Sarr at the other end came close to gifting Watford a shock victory but his curled effort lacked precision as Man United avoid a humiliation.

But one point or no point at all don't make any difference as today's stalemate feels like a defeat for Ronaldo and company.

But it's a point that Watford would have taken all day long before the game.

And with their direct relegation rivals Burnley and Leeds failing to get maximum points today, Hodgson’s men still cling to a glimmer of hope in their bid to steer clear of relegation.


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