An early goal inside five minutes would go on to prove decisive as Man Utd saw off a sprightly Watford in the FA Cup third round.
Man Utd asserted their dominance early and swiftly took the lead through Scott McTominay.
The Scotland international outmuscled his marker from a corner to guide his header in off the far post to make it 1-0 inside five minutes.
Watford threatened to level the scores moments later, but deputy goalkeeper Dean Henderson reacted quickly to snuff out Adam Masina’s effort.
His intervention took the sting out of the strike and deflected the ball towards the far post before Axel Tuanzebe cleared to relative safety.
Ismaila Sarr was providing problems with his pace and trickery down the right, and almost caught Henderson out when his cross from an acute angle nearly nestled inside the far post.
The Hornets were growing into the game after recovering from the early sucker punch.
An appeal for a penalty was rejected after the ball struck Eric Bailly’s arm, while Joao Pedro continued to showcase why he is one of the most highly touted Championship talents down the left.
As half-time approached, a sublime piece of interplay between Mason Greenwood and Donny Van de Beek opened the door for Juan Mata.
The Spaniards shot was hard and low but Watford stopper Daniel Bachmann was equal to the task.
📸 – Donny van de Beek with a wonderful flick to Juan Mata who couldn’t finish it off. What an assist that would have been… pic.twitter.com/UsQUp51HOY
— 𝐀𝐅𝐂 𝐀𝐉𝐀𝐗 💎 (@TheEuropeanLad) January 9, 2021
Eric Bailly received treatment after being clattered by his own goalkeeper and was duly replaced by Harry Maguire seconds before the break.
The pace slowed for much of the early going in the second-half.
Pedro continued to cause problems at set pieces, but under persistent pressure fro Man Utd markers could not trouble Henderson with his efforts.
With the game meandering along, Solskjaer looked to his bench for fresh impetus and introduced Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial to the action.
With 10 minutes remaining Maguire rose highest to reach a teasing Alex Telles free-kick, while Rashford stretched his legs in a mazy run that resulted in a smart diving stop from Bachmann.
Those missed opportunities mattered not, as Man Utd saw out the clock to secure safe passage to the fourth round of the FA Cup 1-0.