By David Awopetu
Scott McTominay’s early header helped Man Utd beat Watford 1-0 to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The Scotland midfielder, who was captaining his side for the first time, bounced a header into the roof of the net just five minutes into the third-round tie at Old Trafford.
And that ultimately proved to be the difference between the two teams as a much-changed United side held on to be in the hat for Monday’s fourth and fifth-round draws.
Now under their fifth manager in two years, Xisco Munoz, Watford had other chances too – Joao Pedro’s header went straight to Henderson and Ken Sema was off target with his.
Mason Greenwood and Donny van de Beek did little to press their claims for a regular starting slot in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, while Jesse Lingard – making only his third appearance of the season and the subject of interest from a number of clubs in the January transfer window – showed glimpses of form but eventually faded.
United will go into the hat for Monday’s fourth and fifth-round draws, while Watford are left to focus on winning promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Given the increasing awareness of the effects of concussion, the decision of United’s medical staff to take no risks with defender Eric Bailly when he was caught in the head by Henderson’s knee as the keeper punched clear was a welcome one.
The Football Association had hoped to introduce concussion substitutes by now but it has not yet been able to as detailed protocols are yet to be received from IFAB, the World game’s rulemakers.
As Bailly was guided towards the tunnel in the last minute of the first half, Harry Maguire replaced him and helped United keep the clean sheet which ensured they reached the fourth round for the 34th time in their past 36 attempts.