Watford were unable to progress past the third round of the FA Cup, but gave a good account of themselves, as they were beaten 1-0 by Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The Hornets have not won away against the Red Devils since a Luther Blissett brace gave them an unlikely League Cup victory in 1978 and that record was never really jeopardised despite the visitors taking the game to the hosts after they had taken the lead early on through Scott McTominay.

Xisco Munoz made seven changes to the team that lost at Swansea in the Championship with new signing Philip Zinckernagel making his debut in place of Ken Sema, while Daniel Bachmann, Marc Navarro, William Troost-Ekong, Adam Masina, Will Hughes and Joao Pedro were all brought in, with Ben Foster, Kiko Femenia, Ben Wilmot, Jeremy Ngakia, Tom Cleverley and Troy Deeney all making way.

In the opposite dugout, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also made several changes but still fielded a side more than capable of beating a side from the division below. It took the hosts just five minutes to make that superiority count, with Daniel James forcing a save from Bachmann after cutting in from the left, before McTominay wriggled away from Troost-Ekong and headed into the roof of the net from the resulting corner that had been whipped in by Alex Telles.

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Mason Greenwood squeezed a shot wide moments later as Watford looked very much like the underdogs, sitting deep inside their own half and defending against the side sitting second in the Premier League.

However, the Hornets were only a defensive clearance away from equalising after quarter-of-an-hour when Andre Gray flicked Hughes’s free-kick into the box and the unmarked Masina diverted the ball past Dean Henderson, only for Axel Tuanzebe to hook it away from on the line.

The near miss was enough to spur United on in search of a two-goal cushion, with James leading the charge for the hosts, first flashing a shot across goal before putting a second attempt over the bar.

United then went close to scoring almost a carbon copy of their first, with Eric Bailly this time shaking off his marker to meet a Telles corner, only to nod beyond the far post.

Having caused problems for Watford from set pieces early on, Solskjaer’s men then had one or two issues of their own defending some of the Hornets’ set pieces as the visitors grew into the game.

Ismaila Sarr was unable to scramble home after a Hughes corner from the left resulted in a melee in the box, while Zinckernagel’s free-kick from midway inside the United half on the right broke for Nathaniel Chalobah, only for the captain on the night to fire wide with the loose ball.

For all their possession Watford were unable to force Henderson into making any saves and needed an important stop from their own goalkeeper moments before half-time to keep the score at 1-0.

Donny Van de Beek’s intricate backheel played Juan Mata in behind the Hornets defence but Bachmann darted off his line and narrowed the angle enough to deny the Spaniard.

There was still time for Sarr to create a few more problems down the right as the half wound to its climax, but the half-time whistle was blown without his hard work really creating much in the way of a clear-cut opportunity.

Watford almost carved one of those out early into the second half when Zinckernagel picked out Pedro from a run to the edge of the penalty area, only for the Brazilian to fire well over. United then went much closer shortly after at the other end, with James’s curling shot forcing a save from Bachmann.

At this stage of the match, the lead was something of a fragile one and Watford continued to look a threat from set pieces and down the right.

Pedro was twice picked out in the United penalty area, first from a Zinckernagel free-kick and secondly from a Sarr cross, only for him to head over the bar and then straight at Henderson as they continued to find it difficult to come up with a chance from which they could expect to find the net.

It was a different story for Manchester United, who were not creating a great deal, but when they did fashion chances, they might have expected to do better. Their next best opening came from a Mata corner that found Greenwood unmarked in the centre, but his effort was tame enough for Bachmann to catch down to his left.

That narrative did not really shift as the game wound towards its climax, with Gray’s wayward header in the 75th minute never looking like levelling the scoring, while Harry Maguire ought to have done better as he headed over from inside the area from a free-kick just moments later and then Marcus Rashford’s mazy run ended with Bachmann having to make another important stop to his left.

Joseph Hungbo had a late roll of the dice with a shot from the edge of the area after Pedro's burst forward, but it was deflected behind and United saw the game through to full time, with Mata failing to add a second late on with a free kick.