RUTHLESS Manchester City gave interim Watford manager Hayden Mullins the worse possible start as he lost his first game in charge following the sacking of Nigel Pearson on Sunday.
It is possible that Hornets owner Gino Pozzo thought Pearson’s dismissal might shock the players into action, but Manchester City, comfortable in second place, slotted four past them at Vicarage Road.
With victory unlikely for Mullins’s men, even a narrow defeat could have been a useful result, with goal difference already proving a crucial element in the relegation battle.
As it stands, since Aston Villa beat Arsenal 1-0 later in the evening, Watford now sit third from the bottom of the table, level with Villa on points but one worse off on goal difference, making their final day outing against Arsenal a crucial game.
Limiting City’s potent attack for a full 90 minutes proved too great a challenge, and on the night, Watford only managed to keep the scores level for half an hour before Sterling slammed the ball home from 12 yards.
The gulf in class and confidence was evident from kick-off, and Sterling doubled the blues’ lead before half time when he slotted home the rebound from his saved penalty.
Things only got worse for Watford in the second half, and by the three-quarter mark, they were four down and floundering.
Phil Foden notched the third after Ben Foster had parried Sterling’s shot into his path before Aymeric Laporte got his first of the campaign, nodding home from Kevin de Bruyne’s free-kick.
On the night, the home side managed a meagre 23% possession, and failed to register a single shot on target from two attempts, compared to City’s impressive 9 from 16.
After the match, keeper Foster, the only Watford player to acquit himself well, said: “The confidence is so crazy, crazy low. I don’t know why it should be, but you get into a state of trying to minimise as much damage as you can and it’s a dangerous way to do things. They’re Man City. They’re very, very good.”
Under Pozzo’s ownership, Watford have seen the departure of 11 permanent managers in 8 years, sacking 3 this season alone.
This is caretaker manager Mullins’s second stint at the helm, the first coming in December when he lost to Leicester and drew with Crystal Palace.
That lack of consistency has spelled nothing but disaster for Watford during a difficult and peculiar season, which will come down to a final day scrap for 17th place.
Meanwhile, Guardiola’s men will be feeling confident as they prepare for a leisurely final day against bottom-of-the-table Norwich City, before their round of 16 clash against Real Madrid.