Michael Carrick bids farewell as Man United see off Watford
Marcus Rashford scores first half winner as Mourinho’s side turn attention to Wembley
Michael Carrick leaves the pitch after his final appearance for Manchester United. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
Manchester United 1 Watford 0
Michael Carrick’s 464th and final Manchester United appearance – barring an unlikely run-out in the FA Cup final – featured a vintage moment via a sweet pass that created Marcus Rashford’s first-half winner. The midfielder had walked out to a guard of honour and on 80 minutes strode off the turf for the last time to a standing ovation.
This first home game since Alex Ferguson’s brain haemorrhage featured a note of best wishes in the programme and the home crowd rising midway through the second half while chanting: “Stand up for Alex Ferguson”.
Victory for United was their 25th in the league, and with second place already secured thoughts now turn to the Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday.
Mourinho made nine changes from their goalless draw at West Ham, Scott McTominay and Alexis Sánchez surviving. The headline news here was Anthony Martial’s unavailability because of a muscular problem, with some confusion regarding whether he was seen driving away from the ground just before kick-off.
Carrick’s first intervention was to slide in on Roberto Pereya but he was left flailing on the turf as the visiting midfielder evaded and Watford turned defence to attack.
United needed 11 minutes to claim a first corner. Daley Blind, making a first league start since August, swung in his kick, the ball reached Juan Mata who found Rashford and the number nine blazed high from 25 yards away.
When Mata next popped up this was on the left, the Spaniard finding Sánchez as he pulled away at the far post. Yet though the ball fell sweetly on to his right boot, the Chilean’s volley was wide.
Next came a moment that summed up United’s season. Mata hit Rashford first time along the right and he did the same, firing the ball into the area. It had Watford scrambling and stood out as a rare move of slickness and pace: a scarcity of that is the unwanted trademark of Mourinho’s side this season.
Now, though, came Carrick’s intervention, as he slid a 40-yard ball on to Mata’s left boot. The Spaniard passed right to Rashford and the 20-year-old collected a 13th goal of the campaign.
Carrick featured in United’s opening foray in the second half though his shot was blocked. A Watford move came via Andre Gray when the centre-forward took possession outside the area, though he was soon stymied.
Later, a Rashford pot-shot sailed over the bar and Watford had a mini-flurry in and around United’s area, before Carrick’s farewell.
A classy operator ended with a classy sign-off patting the badge and offering a goodbye clap as a thank-you to the crowd, closing a gilded 12 years at Old Trafford.