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So often lauded for its defensive strength, Manchester United issued another reminder of its attacking talent by scoring four goals in a Premier League game for the sixth time this season.
On the receiving end this time was Watford, which had already been pummeled 6-0 by Manchester City — the team that second-place United is striving to reel in.
Ashley Young scored twice in the first half and Jesse Lingard ensured there would be no late rally from Watford with a 60-metre solo goal to complete a 4-2 win at Vicarage Road on Tuesday.
United had already scored four goals against West Ham, Swansea, Everton, Crystal Palace and Newcastle, showing that manager Jose Mourinho has no problem unleashing his attacking riches at times.
“We should have scored seven,” he said. “We were very dangerous for 90 minutes.”
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It’s in the big games, against United’s title rivals, where Mourinho chooses to keep it tight and two of them are coming up: Arsenal away and then City at home. United has nine clean sheets from 14 games so far.
United is five points behind City, which plays Southampton in its game in hand on Wednesday, and looks to be the team best-positioned to challenge Pep Guardiola’s team.
Tottenham might already be out of the title race.
A 2-1 loss at Leicester was Spurs’ third loss in its last five games, and followed a disappointing home draw against West Bromwich Albion. The team is now 13 points adrift of City having played a game more.
Young is turning out to be a secret attacking weapon for Man United.
The left back’s deflected shot looped into the top corner for the winning goal against Brighton on Saturday, and he was scoring again three days later against former club Watford.
Both were great strikes, too, his first being a fierce low inside the near post from outside the area in the 19th. Then he curled a free kick into the top corner in the 25th for 2-0.
When Anthony Martial scored in the 32nd, United was cruising but Watford mounted a late fightback to score through Troy Deeney — from the penalty spot — in the 77th and Abdoulaye Doucoure in the 84th.
Meanwhile, the Jamie Vardy-Riyad Mahrez double act propelled Leicester to its improbable league title triumph in the 2015-16 season and they scored beautifully taken goals in the first half to sink Tottenham.
Vardy met Marc Albrighton’s left-wing cross with a volleyed lob in the 13th minute, before Mahrez made it 2-0 on the stroke of halftime when he ran down the right on a counter-attack, cut inside and curled a left-foot shot into the far corner.
Harry Kane grabbed his 10th league goal of the season by meeting substitute Erik Lamela’s pass with a finish high into the net in the 79th minute, but Tottenham missed the chance to climb to third place.
Elsewhere, Alan Pardew is expected to become West Bromwich Albion’s manager on Wednesday and he will inherit a team just two points above the relegation zone after it squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 against Newcastle.
Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Field put Albion 2-0 up by the 56th minute at The Hawthorns, but Ciaran Clark reduced the deficit in the 59th and Newcastle equalized through Jonny Evans’ own goal in the 83rd.
Newcastle ended a run of four straight league losses while West Brom’s winless run stretched to 13 games, giving Pardew a glimpse of the size of the teak awaiting him. Pardew, who wasn’t at the match, will take on former club Crystal Palace on Saturday should his appointment be confirmed.
In the night’s other game, Brighton drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace, which stayed in last place but is now tied for points with Swansea.