Harry Maguire was sent off as Manchester United suffered their fifth defeat in seven Premier League games, a humbling 4-1 setback at Watford.
First-half goals from Joshua King and Ismaila Sarr, who had an earlier penalty saved, piled pressure on struggling United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Vicarage Road.
Substitute Donny van de Beek pulled one back for United, who had captain Maguire dismissed for two bookable offences.
But Claudio Ranieri’s home team made sure with stoppage-time strikes from Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis, earning a second win in seven matches to move four points clear of the relegation zone.
Watford were handed a great opportunity to take the lead in the sixth minute; Jon Moss pointing to the spot after Nemanja Matic’s reckless slice at the ball culminated in Scott McTominay bundling over King.
Kiko Femenia slammed home the rebound after Sarr’s penalty was saved, but the goal was disallowed for encroachment in the box and the spot-kick ordered to be retaken, with David de Gea coming to the rescue once again.
But the United goalkeeper was helpless as the hosts took the lead in the 28th minute; King slotting home against his former club from Dennis’ cutback.
Watford doubled their advantage just before the break; an unmarked Sarr taking a touch before drilling past De Gea from a tight angle.
Solskjaer introduced Van de Beek at the break, and the former Ajax midfielder immediately responded by heading home within five minutes of his introduction.
Foster then did brilliantly to deny Cristiano Ronaldo as the visitors turned up the pressure.
They continued to threaten after Maguire received a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Tom Cleverley in the 70th minute.
But their hopes were dashed as Watford struck twice in stoppage time; Pedro and Dennis drilling low shots past De Gea from a tight angle.
What does it mean? End of the road for Solskjaer?
Yet another defeat for United cranks the pressure on Solskjaer up yet another notch. This might be a blow too far for United’s owners to accept.
As United lick their wounds, Watford have now scored at least three goals in four of the five Premier League matches this season in which they have found the net.
This result also ended a run of four successive defeats against United for Ranieri.
More misery for Maguire
Despite scoring twice for England during the international break, Maguire’s struggles at club level continue. Although he made four clearances – the highest number of any United player – a lapse in concentration proved costly.
Desperately trying to make up for a heavy touch, he caught Cleverley late and left the referee with no choice but to produce a second yellow card.
Delight for Dennis
Dennis produced a wonderful individual performance at Vicarage Road. A constant threat to United, the Nigerian provided assists for King and Pedro.
He then got in on the act himself with a thumping low strike to put the icing on the cake and complete United’s misery.
Key Opta facts
– This was United’s biggest league defeat against a promoted side since September 1989, when they suffered a famous 5-1 loss against Manchester City at Maine Road.
– Only in 2001-02 (11 games) have United conceded 20 or more goals after fewer games in a single Premier League campaign than they have this term. They have shipped 21 so far in 12 games.
– Watford have won back-to-back home league games against United for the first time.
– King’s goal for Watford was his fifth Premier League goal against United, with the Norwegian only netting more in the competition against Everton (8).
– Watford’s Sarr has scored five goals in his 12 Premier League games this season, as many as he netted in 28 appearances in his previous campaign in the competition (2019-20).
– United keeper De Gea has saved the last two penalties he’s faced in the Premier League, the same number that he had managed from his previous 31 faced in the competition.
– Van de Beek’s goal was just his second in the Premier League for United, with his first also coming as a substitute on his debut in the competition in September 2020.
– Maguire was sent off for the first time in his United career, on what was his 121st appearance for the club in all competitions.
United will desperately look to respond when they travel to Villarreal for a crucial Champions League clash on Tuesday. Watford are also on the road in their next game, as Leicester City welcome them to the King Power Stadium on Sunday of next weekend.