Manchester United talisman Cristiano Ronaldo punched the floor in frustration yesterday, after blazing a shot into the Watford fans who were gleefully gazing down from the Rookery End.

CR7's supply line had been greatly diminished by a tactical masterclass from the other CR involved at Vicarage Road yesterday, Claudio Ranieri, or CR70 as he perhaps ought to be known from now on.

The septugenarian struggled to get a tune out of his players in his previous matches at the Vic against Liverpool and Southampton, but his side have clearly developed a much better understanding of his ideas and philosophy since then, with the performance against United close to note perfect.

While they were helped by some abject displays from the visiting team, Watford's players more than played their own part and executed Ranieri's plan superbly to claim what could prove to be a huge three points come the end of the season.

The key to that plan was to play high up the pitch and maintain pressure on a Manchester United defence that of late has been keeping its shape about as well as a ming vase dropped from a crane.

Yesterday they were similarly accommodating and were quick to panic under the weight of the Hornets' high press. Bruno Fernandes was fortunate his anxiously hoofed clearance into the sky eventually went unpunished, after Ismaila Sarr's nervous spot kicks were kept out by David De Gea, but Aaron Wan Bissaka wasn't quite so lucky. His thoughtless header on the end of Kiko Femenia's cross was pounced upon by Emmanuel Dennis, who found Joshua King to make the all important breakthrough.

Pushing high up the pitch also reduced the amount of chances the visitors were able to create, with Ronaldo constantly dropping deeper and deeper from his centre forward position throughout the first half, as Watford strangled the channels and left the pacey wide options of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford with no room to manoeuvre.

As each of United's attempted attacks broke down, the Hornets were able to threaten on the counter and might have scored more had their passing been better in the final third.

In attack, Ranieri set his side up to make life as uncomfortable as possible for the fragile Red Devils, with King and Dennis frequently swapping positions, constantly forcing the defenders to adapt.

Meanwhile, Femenia provided a valuable contribution on the right by getting forward and allowing Sarr to move infield and make a nuisance of himself in the box.

This produced goal number two of the afternoon, with Sarr making the most of some non-existent marking and closing down from Harry Maguire to lash past the helpless De Gea.

Femenia also played his part in the third goal, nicking the ball back from an attempted United counter and getting his team on the front foot once again. This time the emotional Joao Pedro benefited to score his first Premier League goal.

Before the match, the midfield had been highlighted as a potential area of concern for Watford, with Juraj Kucka missing through suspension and Ozan Tufan not 100 per cent fit, while Ranieri himself admitted he had his own reservations about how ready Imran Louza is to perform in the English top flight.

Yet, from there they really dominated proceedings, with Tom Cleverley and Moussa Sissoko able to win the ball back time and again before effectively recycling possession and pushing the game back into the United half.

Louza meanwhile, positioned as a holding midfielder, was regularly able to find gaps in which to operate between the visitors' midfield pair, who in all honesty were made to look about as connected to one another as a hermit is to the outside world.

Despite all of this, Manchester United actually had the lion's share of possession, 61 per cent to be exact, but the majority of that was simply rendered ineffective by a team effort from Watford that was clearly set up to frustrate and force errors.

Maguire's red card and some woeful indecision in the build up to the Hornets' fourth only add further evidence to countless other examples that suggest the plan was executed almost flawlessly.

The focus for Watford now has to be on building on this result and developing some consistency, with three more tough fixtures falling one after another in the coming weeks.

However, yesterday's performance hinted at an identity that could really suit these players this season and showed what might be their best chance of achieving their goal of Premier League survival.

With Leicester City up next, another team who are falling below expectations at the moment, it would be a real shame if they didn't at least try and meet the benchmark they have now set for themselves.