Nigel Pearson praised Watford’s “exceptionally good” work ethic after a fully committed and spirited performance was rewarded with a first home win league of the season as Manchester United were beaten 2-0.

Goals from Ismaila Sarr, courtesy of an awful mistake from David de Gea, and a Troy Deeney penalty in a whirlwind spell early in the second half saw the Hornets end their unwanted club-record run of 12 home league games without a win and give their Premier League survival hopes a shot in the arm.

While recognising the significance of the result against one of the so-called ‘big six’, the Hornets head coach emphasised the result is a starting point and more of the same will be required in the coming months.

Pearson said: “It was important after last week’s performance at Liverpool that we tried to emulate the positives aspects of that performance. We’ve talked a lot this week about having a positive intent.

“When you play the stellar teams in the Premier League it’s going to be important to function as a team and I thought we did that, we were organised and disciplined today. I didn’t think we played quite as well as we did last week but the work ethic of the team was exceptionally good today.”

After such a long time without achieving a home league win, Pearson was pleased his players were once again able to experience the “reward for working hard”.

He said: “To be sitting here on December 22 and that’s our first home, it’s incredible really, but it was going to be important today to get the performance right and you always hope you can win the game from there on in.

“I think it’s a big day for our players to be able to see, or experience the reward for working hard. In the context of our season it was a very important result to try and stay in contact with teams.

“It’s the start of hard work, it’s the start for us, it’s not something we can go overboard about, but it was also important to get the result.”

He continued: “The result was always going to be more important than the performance. I thought the performance was decent, we’ve got certain areas to improve on for sure, but it was the positive intent and the collective spirit that shone through for me.

“I just felt today was going to be a really important day for us as a football club. I’m really delighted for the players and the fans in particular, because it’s been a difficult experience so far this season not to have won at home. To register a win at home in the fashion that we have, the atmosphere was brilliant.

“We’ve got to try and build on that. I need to stress again we can’t get carried away with it, but I’ve seen lots to encourage myself that we’re capable. We’ve got to sustain our positive intent and our ability to go into these types of games and keep our composure and nerve and perform.”