Fernandes on the spot as Man United beat Watford 3-0

Manchester United’s Odion Ighalo in action with Watford’s Ben Foster during Sunday’s English Premier League football match in Manchester. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 February 2020

Fernandes on the spot as Man United beat Watford 3-0

  • Nigel Pearson’s team in deep trouble, just one place off bottom of the table

MANCHESTER: Bruno Fernandes opened his goalscoring account at Manchester United as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side climbed to fifth place in the Premier League table with a 3-0 win against lowly Watford.

United have struggled for consistency all season but the victory at Old Trafford lifts them to 41 points, just three behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

Midfielder Fernandes, bought by Solskjaer last month to add creativity and drive to United’s midfield, scored from the penalty spot shortly before half-time and Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood also found the net.

While United are looking upwards, Nigel Pearson’s Watford are in deep trouble, just one place off the bottom of the table after taking just two points from their past five games.

As it stands, fifth place could be enough to earn a Champions League spot because second-placed Manchester City have been banned from Europe’s elite competition for two seasons, pending an appeal.

United, who beat top-four rivals Chelsea on Monday, took the lead three minutes before the interval with their first Premier League goal at Old Trafford since Jan. 11.

Ben Foster pulled down Fernandes in the box and Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot. The Portuguese midfielder picked himself up to convert the penalty.

Watford thought they were level shortly after half time only to see Troy Deeney’s goal ruled out by VAR for a handball by Craig Dawson.

The home side doubled their lead just before the hour mark. Foster saved Martial’s initial shot but the ball came back to the French forward and he lofted the ball over the head of the goalkeeper and into the net from a tight angle.

Greenwood found some space and fired home via the crossbar to put United 3-0 up with 15 minutes remaining.

Old Trafford had earlier fallen silent to remember Harry Gregg, a hero of the Munich air disaster in 1958, who died last week.

Liverpool are Premier League champions in all but name while Manchester City are firmly entrenched in second place and third-placed Leicester have a cushion despite recent wobbles.

But just 10 points covers nine clubs from Chelsea in fourth place all the way down to Southampton in 12th.

Despite their mini-revival, United have a tough run of fixtures coming up, with games against Everton, Manchester City, Tottenham and Sheffield United.


UEFA warn clubs risk Champions League exclusion if seasons are not completed

UEFA and the European Club Association said that they were working on the possibility of playing on into July and August if need be. (AP/File)
Updated 04 April 2020

UEFA warn clubs risk Champions League exclusion if seasons are not completed

PARIS: UEFA and Europe’s top clubs have stated their determination that the current football season should be played to a conclusion and threatened that teams may be excluded from the next Champions League if their domestic competitions are ended prematurely.
In a joint letter released late on Thursday, UEFA, the European Club Association (ECA), and the European Leagues body representing nearly a thousand clubs in 29 countries, said that they were working on the possibility of playing on into July and August if need be.
The Champions League and Europa League — both of which are frozen in the last-16 stage — could be completed once the domestic seasons are finished, and “stopping competitions should really be the last resort after acknowledging that no calendar alternative would allow to conclude the season.”
The joint response came after the Belgian Pro League announced on Thursday that it recommended declaring the season over with the present table accepted as final.
It is the first European league to take such a measure, although more could follow.
That means Club Brugge would in theory go straight into the next Champions League group stage, but UEFA, the ECA and the European Leagues indicated that they may be barred from continental competition if the Belgian league decision is finalized.
“It is of paramount importance that even a disruptive event like this epidemic does not prevent our competitions from being decided on the field, in accordance with their rules and that all sporting titles are awarded on the basis of results,” the joint letter said.
“We are confident that football can restart in the months to come — with conditions that will be dictated by public authorities — and believe that any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified.
“Since participation in UEFA club competitions is determined by the sporting result achieved at the end of a full domestic competition, a premature termination would cast doubts about the fulfilment of such condition.”
The letter concluded: “UEFA reserves the right to assess the entitlement of clubs to be admitted to the 2020/21 UEFA club competitions.”
The Belgian Pro League said it had had “constructive” discussions with UEFA on Friday in which it “contested any approach which would force a league to continue in the current health crisis.”
It has called for a “varied approach” based on the specifics of individual leagues and countries.
UEFA has set up two working groups to devise a way for European football to get out of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.