Manchester United’s challenge for a top four place in the Premier League stumbled again when Watford held on to a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford to boost their hopes of survival. United dominated from start to finish but had to pay for not taking one of their chances with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Elanga failing clinically in front of goal. The Red Devils remained fourth, but were only two points ahead of Arsenal, who have three games in their hand. Before kick-off, both groups of players stood side by side with a “peace” sign in six languages next to United boss Ralf Rangnick in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rangnick also wore a “no war” badge as Ukrainian flags fluttered among the crowd at Old Trafford.
A 4-1 defeat at Vicarage Road, when the teams last met in November, proved to be the final straw for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as United manager.
United have since lost only once to open play in 20 games, but nine of those have been draws as a star-studded side still struggles to live up to expectations.
After speculation about the potential for Ronaldo to take over the captaincy from Harry Maguire, it was Fernandes who grabbed the armband when the England centre-back fell to the bench.
Fernandes could have scored a hat-trick before half time as he shot too close to Ben Foster when he was one-on-one, shot from close range and then went head over heels after Ronaldo appeared to have fouled Foster in the goal. area.
Ronaldo has only scored once in 10 games but was unlucky when he hit the post early and a goal was disallowed for narrow offside.
Elanga was United’s savior with a late equalizer to save a 1-1 draw from a disappointing performance at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 midweek.
The Swedish teenager was rewarded with a start for Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. He almost repaid Rangnick’s trust when he went just wide after Paul Pogba’s heel put him through the goal.
Sancho and Rashford were thrown in in the closing stages and the first came close with a try that fell just too late as the game came into stoppage time.
But Watford could even have taken a memorable double off United when Ismaila Sarr fired a shot just wide in the final act of the game.
A draw puts Roy Hodgson’s men within three safety points in 19th place.
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