Ashley Young scored two superb goals before Manchester United held off a second-half Watford fightback to win 4-2 at Vicarage Road in the Premier League.
Young gave United the lead against the run of play with a fine half volley from 20 yards before the former Watford midfielder struck again, this time a superb 25-yard free-kick into the top left corner.
It was 3-0 minutes later through Anthony Martial’s stroked finish, but United stepped off the gas in the second half, allowing Troy Deeney to pull one back from the penalty spot.
Abdoulaye Doucoure poked home to seemingly make for a nervy ending, but Jesse Lingard’s solo strike, a contender for goal of the season so far, made sure of the three points.
The result means United have closed the gap to leaders Man City to five points before their clash with Southampton on Wednesday. Watford stay eighth, two points off the top six.
Young opened the scoring with a fierce snapshot on the half volley from the edge of the box from Lingard’s pass, the ball flying into the bottom corner past Heurelho Gomes.
Young, who played at Vicarage Road between 2003 and 2007, then struck an outstanding 25-yard free-kick into the top left corner to give United what earlier seemed an unlikely two-goal lead.
Martial made it 3-0, latching onto Romelu Lukaku’s through ball and stroking low past Gomes from inside the box, and it should have been four before the break but for Gomes’ world class double save, first from Lukaku’s long-range effort, and then more impressively from Lingard’s close-range follow up.
Richarlison’s header hit the bar on the stroke of half-time, while Lukaku fluffed a clear chance in the second half from point-blank range, and then struck just wide from an acute angle.
Watford were given a route back into the game as Marcos Rojo upended Roberto Pereyra near the byline, allowing sub Deeney to score from the spot, and it looked as though we were in for a nervy finish as Doucoure directed a first-time effort past David de Gea from 15 yards with six minutes remaining.
But Lingard sealed the win two minutes later, picking the ball up inside his own half and brilliantly skipping past three Watford challenges before slotting low past Gomes.