Manchester United slumped to defeat at bottom club Watford before manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer accused his players of treating the Premier League game as a testimonial.
The Hornets won 2-0 on Sunday afternoon as David De Gea’s howler saw Ismaila Sarr open the scoring before Troy Deeney’s penalty four minutes later secured a first home victory of the season for the Hornets.
United, who arrived at Vicarage Road less than an hour before kick-off after an accident delayed their journey, were poor for much of the contest.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 22, 2019
The Red Devils have struggled against teams in the bottom half of the table this season and have won just one of the last 17 games in which they have enjoyed a larger portion of possession.
Solskjaer’s side will sit eighth in the table on Christmas Day as hopes of a top-four finish continue to dwindle and the Norwegian pulled no punches in assessing United’s performance at Vicarage Road.
“The first half it could easily have been my testimonial,” he said.
“And it might have been a better atmosphere at my testimonial, to be fair. It was very subdued, slow, no tempo, urgency.
“Any bit of encouragement their crowd got was when we gave them set-plays. And we gave them two goals in the second half.
“Today is not about amount of possession, it’s about quality, how we do things and the two goals we conceded.
“The first one, a big goal, was from a mistake. The second goal as well, it’s a bad mistake (by Aaron Wan-Bissaka) making a tackle. So two goals in three minutes made it hard for us.
“We created chances but only after they were two goals up. But we have to start with more urgency. There are no excuses.
“We prepared well. There is nothing I can put my finger on. You can’t blame the traffic. We were a little bit late but an hour here should be enough to prepare.”
For Watford, this could prove to be a marquee moment in their fight against the drop as Sarr scored on 50 minutes before being fouled by Wan-Bissaka to earn the penalty which Deeney converted.
Nigel Pearson inspired a maiden home win of the campaign in his first game in the Vicarage Road dugout.
First home game ✅First home win ✅
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) December 22, 2019
He felt his side performed better last time out in defeat at league leaders Liverpool but was encouraged by what he saw on Sunday.
“It was important after Liverpool that we tried to emulate the positive aspects of that performance,” the former Leicester boss said.
“I did not think we played quite as well as we did last week. To be sitting here on December 22, and that’s our first home win, it’s incredible really.
“In the context of our season it was a very important result to stay in contact with teams. It is not something we should go overboard with.”