If Watford are to lose a game, it should be showing the qualities they displayed in today’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United. That was the view of Javi Gracia.

The Hornets came into the game seeking a club record-breaking fifth successive Premier League victory since the start of the season, but ultimately came within a superb David de Gea save in injury-time from turning a two-goal half-time deficit into a 2-2 draw.

Watford’s head coach admitted his side were second best in a fist half in which a quick-fire double from Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling had put United firmly in the driving seat.

But the home side’s spirit and togetherness was again to the fore after the break as Andre Gray halved the deficit before Christian Kabasele so nearly snatched a point at the death, only for his injury-time header to be kept out by De Gea.

Asked if he thought his side had equalised at the end, Gracia said: “We were close to scoring in the last two chances. From the bench I didn’t see clearly, but the most important thing for me is we made a very big effort again.

“We tried to win but if we have to lose, we have to lose like today, fighting until the end, showing all the time our spirit and character and for our fans have to be proud of us we have to make an effort. I think we have done that.”

Reflecting on the game, the Hornets’ boss said: “In the first half they played much better than us. They had more possession, more chances and they played better.

“We spoke at half-time to try to improve things in the second half and I think we made a step forward and we were able to get out and try to create more chances with more possession.

“We competed better in the second half until the end of the game, we were able to score one goal but De Gea was amazing.”

United’s two goals were disappointing defensively and Gracia admitted it can be difficult to defend against United at set-pieces because of the height they possess. But having been 2-0 down he wasn’t sure if his side deserved a share of the spoils at the end.

“Deserve or not deserve, I don’t know,” he said. “We could have done it in the last minutes but they played much better in the first half.

“If we score in the last minutes a draw will be a very good result for us, but we tried and I think it’s the line we need to keep for the next games.”