Sunday, September 18, 2016 has now joined the list of famous dates in Watford’s history after an incredible performance of desire, heart and an inspirational will to win was deservedly rewarded with a famous 3-1 victory over Manchester United.

The atmosphere inside Vicarage Road was one of deafening joyous elation at the final whistle after Troy Deeney had rifled in the match-clinching penalty to secure the Hornets’ first victory over a United side for 30 years and two days.

Jose Mourinho may have had all his available big guns on show but, quite simply, Walter Mazzarri’s men wanted it more. They didn’t show any sign of wilting after Marcus Rashford had cancelled out Etienne Capoue’s first-half opener and instead went again in the closing stages as substitute Camilo Zuniga swept in a rare goal a matter of seconds after coming on, before he was fouled by Marouane Fellaini for the three-point-clinching third goal from the penalty spot; the irony of it being awarded by Michael Oliver probably not lost on some inside the ground.

Watford had started positively and crucially, were proving more than a match for their opponents in the vital midfield exchanges, from the opening minutes.

They should have been in front after 13 minutes when Odion Ighalo inexplicably missed an open goal, but after surviving a scare when Paul Pogba hit the crossbar the Hornets’ excellent efforts were deservedly rewarded when Capoue swept in his fourth goal of an impressive campaign to date following good work by Daryl Janmaat and Miguel Britos.

The Hornets looked like they might play into United’s hands by dropping deep after being pegged back, but it was the visiting defenders who were left with questions to answer after the abject manner in which they let Roberto Pereyra run in behind and set up Zuniga for his strike.

The way the visitors defended against Isaac Success for his superb run which led to the penalty was equal poor, not that Watford particularly cared as they made sure of taking maximum points and improving their tally to seven and completing back-to-back top-flight wins for the first time since December.

With due respect to Sunderland and Liverpool, the manner of the way these victories over West Ham United and now Manchester United have been achieved feels of greater significance and gives Mazzarri’s men a great platform to build from for the rest of the campaign.

The Hornets implemented their game-plan admirably to a man. Sebastian Prodl stood up to Zlatan Ibrahimovic impressively and limited his effectiveness, England captain Wayne Rooney's flattered to deceive more often that not, while Pogba's influence was also restricted by his opponents' admirably effective efforts in the engine room.

Mazzarri, unsurprisingly, decided to leave well alone as much as possible following the superb come-from-behind 4-2 victory at the Hammers last weekend, making just the one enforced change with Prodl coming in for the injured Younes Kaboul, who the Hornets said had a “slight” hamstring problem.

There was always the chance Jose Mourinho would shake things up a little following back-to-back defeats and he decided that attack was the best way forward, bringing in both Rashford and Anthony Martial to join Rooney and Ibrahimovic in a very positive looking front four on paper.

The Manchester United line-showed a total of three changes from their last league outing, the 2-1 derby defeat to Manchester City, with Mourinho unsurprisingly preferring Chris Smalling over Daley Blind in the heart of the defence, given the England international’s superior physical attributes when set against the qualities of Deeney and Ighalo.

The first opening of the game came the visitors’ way in the second minute when they were awarded a free-kick following a foul on Ibrahimovic. Rooney clipped in the set piece from right of centre around 40 yards out but Smalling’s attempted header drifted tamely wide.

But it quickly became apparent Watford had shelved the 3-5-2 formation for this game, with Pereyra operating behind the front two in a 4-3-1-2 shape when they were pushing forward, with the Argentine dropping back in to a midfield four when his side were defending.

Deeney had good reason to ask a question of referee Michael Oliver in the ninth minute when Marouane Fellaini clearly had hold of his shirt at a Jose Holebas throw, but within 60 seconds the hosts had their first opportunity.

After Ibrahimovic had been penalised for a foul on Miguel Britos, Holebas hit a deep free-kick to the far post where Prodl came in unmarked to head back across the six-yard box, but Ighalo couldn’t quite stretch enough to get a decisive touch.

But in the 13th minute the Nigerian international had one of those moments he will want to forget very quickly.

It stemmed from what was no more than a hopeful lofted ball up field from Prodl, but Deeney gambled and his presence, plus a lack of communication between Smalling and David de Gea, caused the Spaniard to drop the ball, presenting Ighalo with what looked like the simplest of finishes, only for him to fire horribly wide from the edge of the penalty area with the goal gaping. It was the type of gilt-edged opportunity that cannot afford to be spurned against any side, let alone a team of United’s capabilities. Ultimately though, it was not to prove costly.

Watford were clearly in the mood and three minutes later Deeney met a Janmaat header from the right with a fine header, forcing de Gea to dive to his right to punch it away with his left hand.

United had been slow to get in their stride, but in the 21st minute they could have gone in front when Rooney injected some urgency into proceedings by quickly spreading the ball out to the right where Rashford advanced before hitting a low centre that broke for Ibrahimovic coming in from the left, only for the retired Swedish legend to fire into the side netting.

The game then settled down for a period but there was a moment of concern in the 27th minute when Martial and Janmaat went down following a clash of heads. After receiving treatment though, both were able to continue.

The Hornets had been largely comfortable defensively but in the 30th minute they were within inches of being undone thanks to a moment of vision from Pogba.

There didn’t appear to be too much on when the former Juventus star picked up the ball 30 yards out, but in the blink of an eye he’d struck a superb right-footed curler that sailed over the stranded Heurelho Gomes and cannoned back out of the face of his crossbar.

Four minutes later, Watford were in front.

A lot of the credit initially must go to Britos, who thundered into a challenge on Martial, immediately releasing Janmaat into the right side of the penalty area. The Dutchman had the time and space to advance and look up before pulling the ball back to Capoue, who struck a first-time right-footed shot into the roof of the net via the boot of de Gea to continue his wonderful scoring start to the season and send most of Vicarage Road into raptures.

Martial was injured in the build-up to the goal and after receiving treatment was unable to continue. Ashley Young took his place and received a warm reception on his return to Vicarage Road.

The hope was Watford would try to keep it tight after taking the lead but twice Ibrahmovic almost got in, only to be foiled by a superb tackle by Prodl before the quick thinking of Gomes denied him another clear route to goal.

The hosts were to get another sight of goal before the interval though, as they were awarded a free-kick in a good position around 25 yards out after Pogba fouled Capoue. Holebas got his strike around the wall but it didn’t enough on it to seriously trouble de Gea as the Hornets deservedly left the pitch to a standing ovation at the interval.

Ibrahimovic harmlessly snatched a shot wide in the opening two minutes of the second period before Valon Behrami was forced to get his body in the way of well struck Young follow-up after more good work from Prodl had prevented Ibrahimovic from getting on the end of a Rooney cross.

A knock to Janmaat forced Mazzarri into a change in the 50th minute as Nordin Amrabat took his place on the right, but the Hornets had already picked up from where the left off in the first half, putting United under pressure from a couple of corners.

The visitors tried to lift themselves thereafter, but were looking average as their opponents remained confident, composed and disciplined as the game ticked past the hour mark.

It came as no surprise when Mourinho decided a change was needed, bringing on Juan Mata for Antonio Valencia. And within seconds United were level.

Ibrahimovic shouldn’t have been allowed to get away through the centre of the Hornets rearguard and work a one-two with Rashford, but when the ball did come in from the former Paris St Germain striker it struck Behhrami on the arm and broke ideally for the young England international to stab in the equaliser from close range.

Having been less than impressive for much of the contest, United’s tails were suddenly up as their opponents were forced on to the back foot for a spell.

The Hornets held firm though, and might have benefitted more when a Pereyra free-kick from wide on the right was flicked high into the heart of the penalty area by Amrabat, but the bounce didn’t fall the way of a yellow shirt.

The referee then issued a spate of yellow cards, booking Pogba after a confrontation with Deeney before Britos saw yellow for a foul on Rashford and Holebas suffered the same fate for delaying the subsequent free-kick.

Despite the pressure United were having, Gomes hadn’t been forced to make a meaningful save all match. But that changed with ten minutes remaining when he sprung away to his right to superbly keep out Ibrahimovic’s header back across goal from a deep Fellaini cross.

Mazzarri moved to bring fresh legs into the engine room with eight minutes of normal time to go as Zuniga replaced Capoue. To say it was to pay rich dividends is something of an understatement.

The Hornets had the ball on the right with Amrabat and the manner in which United allowed Pereyra to run in behind, latch on to the pass, look up and pick out his man was abject. But find his man the Argentine did and it was Zuniga who appeared in space on the right side of the area and the Colombian emphatically swept the ball beyond de Gea to put his side back in front.

United were stunned and their frustration started to boil over. Fellaini and Rooney were booked in quick succession before Isaac Success, who had replaced Ighalo in the 86th minute, picked up the ball on the left and decided to take on the United backline, tricking his way into the area before slipping a pass to Zuniga, who was immediately clobbered by Fellaini. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot and after a brief delay Deeney emphatically did the rest, blasting the ball down the middle for his second of the season to secure a famous victory and trigger wonderful scenes of celebration.

Watford: Gomes; Cathcart, Prodl, Britos, Holebas; Janmaat (Amrabat 50), Pereyra, Behrami, Capoue (Zuniga 82); Deeney, Ighalo (Success 89). Not used: Pantilimon, Kenedy, Guedioura, Watson.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia (Mata 61), Bailly, Smalling, Shaw (Memphis 85); Fellaini, Pogba; Martial (Young 38), Rooney, Rashford; Ibrahimovic. Not used: Romero, Carrick, Blind, Herrera.

Bookings: Pogba after confrontation with Deeney (75); Britos for a foul on Rashford (77); Holebas for time wasting (77); Fellaini for a foul on Zuniga (87); Rooney for a foul on Pereyra (90).

Attendance: 21,118 (2,189 away fans).

Referee: Michael Oliver.