Luke Shaw believes Manchester United’s recent victories over their top-six rivals have been rendered “pointless” by an inability to beat teams further down the Premier League pecking order.
The Red Devils enjoyed successes against Tottenham and Manchester City earlier this month but followed that up by drawing at home to Everton and then slumping to a miserable 2-0 defeat at bottom club Watford on Sunday.
The loss at Vicarage Road leaves United seven points adrift of the top four heading into the Christmas period.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have struggled against opponents who sit deep, winning just one of the last 17 games when they have enjoyed more possession.
In-form Newcastle, who beat United 1-0 at St James’ Park earlier in the season, are the visitors to Old Trafford on Boxing Day and Shaw is calling for improvement ahead of the game.
“We need to be better and we know we need to be better,” he told manutd.com.
“The wins against Spurs and City were great but now they seem pointless with the last two results we’ve had, because we need to be beating the teams below us as well. We haven’t done that.
“We will work on the training pitch and hopefully have a good Boxing Day.”
Watford took the lead as Ismaila Sarr’s tame effort slipped through the grasp of David De Gea, the United goalkeeper’s sixth error leading to a goal since the start of last season.
But, after Troy Deeney’s penalty four minutes later secured a first home win of the campaign for the Hornets, Shaw backed his team-mate to bounce back immediately.
“Of course, it was a freak goal,” he added.
“There is no way you can point any blame at him at all. He is a world-class goalkeeper and I am sure he will pick himself up.”
While United stew over a dismal display and unexpected defeat, Watford will be hoping the result – coming in Nigel Pearson’s first home game as head coach – can prove a catalyst to an unlikely survival bid.
Midfielder Will Hughes was one of the best players on the pitch on Sunday but warned it must not be a false dawn for Watford like their previous win, at fellow strugglers Norwich on November 8, proved to be.
“We need to knuckle down. It is just three points at the end of the day. We are still bottom of the league.
“We can’t take our foot off the pedal now because we have won one game – which we probably did against Norwich after beating them.
“It is frustrating how the season has gone so far, but we know what we are capable of against a good Manchester United side. We put in the work ethic and we got the rewards.”