Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came to the defence of David De Gea after the goalkeeper’s blunder proved pivotal in a 2-0 loss away to Premier League bottom side Watford on Sunday.
The Vicarage Road clash was still goalless when De Gea somehow allowed a tame, spinning effort from Ismaila Sarr to creep through his hands and in at the near post.
Watford doubled their lead four minutes later when Troy Deeney fired home from the penalty spot after Aaron Wan-Bissaka brought down Sarr with a misjudged sliding tackle and not even the returning Paul Pogba, on as a second-half substitute, could prevent defeat.
But what irked Solskjaer more than De Gea’s mistake was the pace of United’s play.
“We started the game slow,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports.
“The first half was very, very poor from both sides and when you concede two goals like we did in quick succession with their two shots on target we gave ourselves too much to do.
“It was too slow, it was like a testimonial in the first half from both teams,” he added after a defeat that left United in eighth place and continued their run of poor results against lower-ranked teams in the top flight — a marked contrast to their recent wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.
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United’s five league losses this term have come against Crystal Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and now Watford.
As for Spain international De Gea’s howler, Solskjaer said: “It was a mistake, it happens in football and it is what we train for every day to make sure they don’t happen again. David has been very good lately, it is just one of those things that happen.
“You have to earn every point on the pitch and today we didn’t deserve that.
This was just Watford’s second league win this season and first of the campaign at home as they marked new manager Nigel Pearson’s first match in charge at Vicarage Road in style.
Although the Hornets remain at the foot of the table, they are now level on points with second-bottom Norwich and a mere six shy of safety.
Victory followed an impressive display in a defeat last time out at leaders Liverpool and Deeney said: “We’ve been close (to winning) for ages now.
“People are looking and see us at the bottom of the league but performances like Liverpool, Leicester before that, there are games we’re thinking we should have won.”
“It was a great team performance, lots of people did a proper shift and I’m happy for everyone here that they can have a decent Christmas.”
Deeney’s goal was his first since April but the striker insisted he had not felt under pressure to score.
“Real pressure is watching my mum work three jobs trying to make ends meet for Christmas,” he said.
“This is football.”