Javi Gracia is convinced Watford are heading in the right direction where they can take points off the so-called ‘big six’ clubs in their own back yard, but acknowledged his players need to show they can make the step up.

The Hornets’ displays against the Premier League’s big guns have, in the main, been consistently encouraging this season. This afternoon at Manchester United was up with their best yet, but a fine performance went unrewarded as the visitors were beaten 2-1.

The difference was in the final third as Watford were unable to produce the quality required often enough to turn lengthy periods of dominance into a deserved reward, but the head coach believes it will come.

Gracia said: “I think we took risks to play today. We tried to dominate and play offensively but the players believed from the beginning until the end. But in the end you have to show in the last metres and be more efficient. But the rest of the performance was good.

“I know we have to make a step forward if we want to get points against these teams. I’m sure, I don’t know when, but I’m sure we will be able to get it because we are in the right way, I’m sure of that.

“I have that feeling when I see my players train every day, with their ambition and their commitment. I can feel it but in games we have to show it.”

Reflecting on the defeat, secured by goals in either half from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial before Abdoulaye Doucoure rounded off a fine move to score a deserved reply for the Hornets at the end, Gracia said: “It’s difficult to explain because I think we had a good performance. It’s true it wasn’t enough to get the points but I’m happy with the performance.

“We need to do things better, we need to improve in the last metres, but we created chances, we had more shots, more shots on target, more corners kicks, we dominate with a lot of time in the opposition half.

"But the first goal was a counter attack, the second was at a moment we felt we were playing well and when you don’t score against these teams with a high quality, you can lose in any moment. We tried until the end but it wasn’t enough.”