At what point does a drama become a crisis for Jose Mourinho?
It was close to 30 years ago, almost to the day, that Watford last defeated Manchester United. On Sunday they broke that dismal run, and deservedly so. It wasn’t just that United lost, but that few can argue with the result.
It was a close game, tiny margins decided it, but gone are the days when United are feared. Watford played them as equals, refusing to settle and pushing for a winner, which came in the 83rd minute.
Watford goalscorers Juan Camilo Zuniga and Troy Deeney celebrate at the final whistle following a famous victory
Juan Zuniga celebrates after scoring Watford's late second goal with his first touch after coming on as a substitute
Zuniga celebrates with Jose Holebas after sweeping home Watford's second goal at Vicarage Road
United forwards Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic react with dismay as they slump to defeat at Watford
Ibrahimovic reacts furiously as referee Michael Oliver awards Watford a stoppage time penalty, leading to the third goal
Dejected Manchester United players, led by striker Marcus Rashford, trudge off the field at the final whistle
By contrast, the Watford players were elated, with goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes lifting scorer Juan Zuniga
Watford manager Walter Mazzarri has used close to a World Cup squad of players already this season, in terms of numbers and nationalities, but here his determination to embrace change paid off.
Of the three players involved in the build up to the all-important second goal, two were substitutes.
It was Nordin Amrabat – on for Daryl Janmaat after 52 minutes – who helped set it up, playing in Roberto Pereyra on the right side. And it was Camilo Zuniga, replacing Etienne Capoue just a minute earlier, who hit the perfect finish, leaving David De Gea no chance.
A Colombian international, on loan from Napoli, Zuniga then had a hand in the third, the goal that added mild embarrassment to an already uncomfortable scoreline.
Marouane Fellaine felled him clumsily, Troy Deeney stepped up to convert the penalty. The game barely had time to restart before Michael Oliver blew the final whistle.
Rashford marks his equalising goal by giving Luke Shaw a high-five as Manchester United pile on second-half pressure
Marcus Rashford scores Manchester United's equaliser from close range as Wayne Rooney celebrates in the background
Rashford was in a hurry to get the match underway once again after scoring United's second-half equaliser
Until those final ten minutes, it had looked as if United were at least going to emerge with a point. Marcus Rashford had equalised, with 28 minutes remaining, after a Zlatan Ibrahimovic cross had ricocheted off Valon Behrami. In days gone by that might have signalled a United revival. Not anymore.
Under pressure, they still have the feel of damaged goods. It is worth remembering what happened two months after that last Watford win. A bloke called Alex Ferguson turned up. Whatever happened to him?
The fact is that by the time Watford took the lead, they could already have scored three. It wasn’t exactly the roasting they received in the first 45 minutes against Manchester City last week, but it most certainly wasn’t the return to form that Jose Mourinho would have hoped for after that.
Watford, like most of the new Premier League breed, press high and quickly and came at Manchester United with an aggression that was so often missing in the years when just the mention of their name caused trepidation.
Etienne Capoue celebrates after scoring Watford's opening goal in the first-half at Vicarage Road
Capoue had peeled off into space on the edge of the penalty area and swept the ball home off David de Gea's leg
The Watford supporters go wild as Etienne Capoue fires them into a 34th-minute lead
Anthony Martial believed he had been fouled by Miguel Britos during the build-up to Capoue's goal
United captain Wayne Rooney remonstrates with referee Michael Oliver, believing that Martial had been fouled