Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United’s challenge for a top-four finish in the Premier League stumbled once more as Watford clung on for a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford to boost their hopes of survival.
United dominated from start to finish but were made to pay for not taking any of their chances with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Elanga not clinical in front of goal.
The Red Devils remained fourth but edged just two points ahead of Arsenal, who have three games in hand.
Before kick-off, both sets of players stood together with a sign saying “peace” in six languages alongside United boss Ralf Rangnick in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rangnick also wore a “no war” badge, while there Ukrainian flags waved among the crowd at Old Trafford.
A 4-1 loss at Vicarage Road when the sides last met in November proved to be the final straw for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as United manager.
United have only lost once from open play in 20 games since, but nine of those matches have been draws as a star-studden squad has still struggled to match expectations.
After speculation over the potential for Ronaldo to take over the captaincy from Harry Maguire, it was Fernandes who took the armband as the England centre-back was dropped to the bench.
Fernandes could have had a hat-trick before half-time as he fired too close to Ben Foster when one-on-one, volleyed off target from close range and then headed over after Ronaldo appeared to have been fouled by Foster inside the area.
Ronaldo has scored just once in 10 games, but was unfortunate as he hit the post early on and then saw a goal ruled out for a narrow offside decision.
Elanga was United’s saviour with a late equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw from a disappointing performance at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 in midweek.
The Swedish teenager was handed a start ahead of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford as a reward. He nearly repaid Rangnick’s faith as he poked just wide after Paul Pogba’s backheel put him through on goal.
Sancho and Rashford were thrown on in the final stages and the former came close with an effort that dipped just too late as the game entered stoppage time.
But Watford could even have snatched a memorable double over United when Ismaila Sarr blasted a shot just wide with the final act of the game.
A draw edges Roy Hodgson’s men to within three points of safety in 19th.
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