Manchester United punctured the Watford bubble on Saturday, enduring the late pressure of the Premier League's first leaders to win 2-1 and ease the pressure on besieged manager Jose Mourinho. United have had a miserable start to the season, losing two of their first four games and escaping the pace set by Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford. But two goals in three minutes in the first half from Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling gave them a valuable respite at halftime and finally paved the way to a victory that ended with Watford's perfect record.
Shaken by United's strong end in the first half, Watford scored a goal midway through the second period through Andre Gray, but could not find a draw despite a strong finish.
Mourinho opted for power instead of cunning on Vicarage Road with a physically imposing trio of Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Nemanja Matic.
Former Watford player Ashley Young stepped on the left side to replace Luke Shaw, who suffered a head injury while serving England last week.
The first half hour was even when the two sides tested each other – United investigated but the home side looked dangerous at halftime, trusting the players through on the back of four consecutive victories.
Watford was about to break the deadlock when Troy Deeney forced David de Gea to dump just after the quarter-hour mark.
In the middle of the second half, Alexis Sanchez had the ball on the net but was ruled out of play, and minutes later the Chilean forced a good save by Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster after a race.
United, backed by his traveling fans, who regularly sang the name of Mourinho, was establishing a foothold in the game and had his pressure counted at 35 minutes.
Watford could not clear a direct free-kick and when the ball came back in, Lukaku was on hand to put the ball inside his stomach to score his seventh goal in as many games for the club and the country this season.
Foster then kept out a powerful Pogba unit, but United were two in the 38th minute when Smalling controlled Fellaini's header after a corner and hit the ball home.
Buoyant United almost grabbed a third, but Foster saved Pogba well and Watford kept the score at 2-0 at halftime.
But the team of Javi Gracia returned to the game in the 65th minute when Abdoulaye Doucoure chose Gray, who crashed at home, without giving De Gea a chance.
That goal instilled the team and the fans with renewed confidence and United suddenly became nervous.
Doucoure saw a left footed shot from outside the area saved on the near post when time ran out.
Matic was sent off for a second yellow card, but Watford did not have time to make his extra man count, with De Gea making an excellent save to score a Christian Kabasele header in the final seconds.