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PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester United fall apart at the seams in third straight defeat

Watford increased the misery for Jose Mourinho, whose Manchester United side slumped to a third straight defeat at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Manchester United fall apart at the seams in third straight defeat
Eddie Keogh REUTERS

Three defeats on the trot

Watford increased the misery for Jose Mourinho, whose Manchester United side slumped to a third straight defeat on Sunday, suffering an embarrassing 3-1 reverse at Vicarage Road.

Mourinho's side were left stunned by Étienne Capoue's first half opener and, although Marcus Rashford equalised after the turnaround, United fell apart at the seams in the closing stages. Juan Camilo Zuniga restored Watford's lead with seven minutes left before Troy Deeney's penalty condemned Mourinho to a third consecutive defeat for the first time in his career since he was in charge at Porto back in 2002.

First defeat to Watford in 30 years

It was the first time United had lost three in a row since Louis van Gaal's team succumbed to four successive defeats in December last year. Adding to the indignity for United, it was their first loss in three decades to Watford, who ended a run of 11 successive defeats against the Mancunian giants.

United are already lagging six points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and the feelgood factor following the three wins that marked the start of the Mourinho era has ebbed away. After losing to City, Feyenoord in the Europa League and now Watford over the last week, the sheer enormity of the task facing Mourinho as he rebuilds United has been laid bare.

Dog's dinner

They looked out-of-sync right from the moment keeper David de Gea collided with Chris Smalling as they made a dog's dinner of dealing with Sebastian Prodl's raking cross. When de Gea fumbled and dropped the ball straight to Odion Ighalo a goal seemed certain, but the Watford striker fired hurriedly wide of the unguarded net from the edge of the penalty area.

Pogba pildriver

It was a shocking miss, but even that escape couldn't shake United from their somnambulism and de Gea had to launch himself to his left to claw away a goal-bound header from Deeney moments later. Paul Pogba has struggled to live up his world record fee since joining United and, amid another tepid display, the France midfielder gave a sudden glimpse of his ability when he quickly shifted the ball to set himself for a curling 25-yard strike that left Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes rooted to the spot as it cannoned off the bar.

But Watford's relentlessly physical approach was wearing United down and Anthony Martial needed several minutes treatment after being pole-axed by a clash of heads with Daryl Janmaat. Martial eventually got to his feet but the France international still appeared groggy when he was made a fatal mistake in the 34th minute.

Dwelling too long on the ball deep inside his own half, Martial was caught in possession by Miguel Britos and, with United's defence completely exposed, Janmaat had time and space to pick out the unmarked Capoue, who drilled a clinical finish past de Gea.

As Watford celebrated, Mourinho questioned whether Martial had been fouled and the winger lay flat on the turf before being substituted. That ignominious exit encapsulated a forgettable half for United, but they equalised with a rare incisive attack in the 62nd minute.

Ibra goes close

Rashford played a one-two with Ibrahimovic and broke into the penalty area, where he showed his predatory instincts by sweeping home from close-range after the Swede's cross deflected into his path off Valon Behrami. Ibrahimovic nearly won it for United in the 78th minute when he met Marouane Fellaini's cross with a powerful header that Gomes brilliantly pushed away.

But United never looked convincing and they crumbled at the back in the 83rd minute as Zuniga scored with his first touch less than a minute after coming on. Roberto Pereyra was unchecked when he raced onto Nordin Amrabat's pass into the United penalty area and he cut the ball back to Colombia defender Zuniga, who lashed a fine strike past de Gea to leave Mourinho ashen-faced. Just when things looked as though they couldn't get much worse for the Portuguese manager, Fellaini tripped Zuniga in the area in stoppage-time and Deeney stepped up to lash home the spot-kick.