Manchester United were back amongst the goals as they ran out deserved 4-2 victors over Watford at Vicarage Road on Tuesday.
Jose Mourinho’s side were at their ruthless best in the first half as they raced into a 3-0 lead at the break, with a brace from Ashley Young and one from Anthony Martial.
However, the Hornets hit back in the second half as Troy Deeney pulled one back from the penalty spot, before Abdoulaye Doucoure further reduced the deficit in the closing stages.
But Jesse Lingard calmed United’s nerves with a fine solo goal on 86 minutes to seal victory, which closed the gap to five points on Manchester City.
The hosts made a bright start and enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening 15 minutes, but they failed to trouble David De Gea in the United goal.
Richarlison delivered a dangerous cross from the left on nine minutes that just eluded Andre Gray in the box, which was the closest they came in the early stages.
The Red Devils started to get a foothold in the game and they opened the scoring with their first chance in the 18th minute when Young lashed a half-volley past Heurelho Gomes from the edge of the box after the ball bounced up off Kiko Femenia.
United were in control at the midway point in the first half as Young struck again with a superb free-kick from 22 yards out that he curled into the top-left corner of the net.
Martial put the game out of reach in the 32nd minute with a clinical finish from 18 yards out after being put through by Romelu Lukaku’s flicked pass.
Things could have been worse for the Hornets had Heurelho Gomes not pulled off a double save in first-half stoppage time to deny Lukaku as he surged through the middle to shoot from 19 yards out, before the Brazilian keeper tipped over Jesse Lingard’s shot on the follow-up.
Richarlison nearly pulled one back on the stroke of half-time with a header that clipped the top of the crossbar from Sebastian Prodl’s cross on the left.
The visitors came under early pressure in the second half as Watford looked to get back in the contest. Doucoure found space for a shot on the hour mark, although he failed to test De Gea from 25 yards out.
Richarlison threatened again three minutes later as he steered a header over at the back post from Femenia’s cross on the right, while Adrian Mariappa dispossessed Lukaku on 70 minutes and fired well wide of the right post from 25 yards out.
The Red Devils went on the attack in the 74th minute with Paul Pogba directing a header over from a free-kick on the right, before Lukaku wasted a golden opportunity when substitute Marcus Rashford nicked the ball off Mariappa and teed up the striker, who delayed his shot too long which allowed the Jamaican to recover and make a block.
Lukaku looked to make amends moments later as he powered his way into the area before dragging an effort just wide of the right post.
United were made to pay for his wastefulness soon afterwards as Marcos Rojo brought down Roberto Pereyra inside the box, and substitute Troy Deeney sent De Gea the wrong way with a penalty into the bottom-left corner of the net.
De Gea was beaten again on 84 minutes as Doucoure stabbed a first-time shot into the back of the net from Andre Carrillo’s low cross on the right to give the home team hope.
However, Lingard capped off a fine individual performance two minutes later when he went on a run from inside his own half that ended with a low strike into the bottom-left corner of the goal from just inside the area.
Check out the goals below!