With the international break coming to an end, Manchester United return to Premier League action this Saturday, with a trip to Vicarage Road to take on Watford.
Manchester United will face off against surprise package Watford FC this weekend, as Premier League returns after a two-week hiatus due to the first international break of the season.
Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils have had a difficult start to the new season and find themselves way off the pace in the title race. United sit in the tenth spot in the table, with six points from four games. However, confidence will be high after they bounced back from two successive defeats with a solid 2-0 victory over Burnley before the international break.
In contrast to United’s start, Watford find themselves flying high in the new season. Javi Gracia’s men have won all of their four league games so far and occupy the third spot in the standings, level on points with leaders Liverpool and second placed Chelsea, but behind on goal difference. Prior to the international break, the Hornets beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 and will be hoping to pull off another coup this week.
Team News & Tactics
Winger Gerard Deulofeu remains out with a hip issue for the home team, while former Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley is a long-term absentee as he recovers from an Achilles injury. Apart from the two, there are no other injury or suspension worries for Watford.
Gracia has set his team up in a 4-2-2-2 formation, deploying two defensive midfielders along with two attacking midfielders to support the two main strikers. And that is unlikely to change when United come visiting this weekend.
Summer signing Ben Foster has been the preferred option in goal and should feature against his former side on Saturday. Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas have been handy outlets going forward from the full-back slots and will look to continue in the same vein of form. In the heart of the defence, it will be Craig Cathcart, who scored in the last game and the solid Christian Kabasele.
The French midfield duo of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue will sit the deepest in the middle of the park and provide protection to the back four. Will Hughes will slot in as one of the attacking midfielders, with the other slot set to be taken up by former Juventus man Roberto Pereyra, who has been in sensational form in the new season.
Spearheading the attack for the Hornets against United will be club captain Troy Deeney, along with record signing Andre Gray. The former’s physical threat and the latter’s penchant for running in behind defenders makes for a dangerous partnership upfront for Watford.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-2-2): Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes, Pereyra; Deeney, Gray;
Mourinho will be without the services of forward Marcus Rashford, who is serving a three-match ban after being sent off in the win against Burnley. Ander Herrera is set to miss out with an ankle problem, while fellow midfielder Marouane Fellaini is also a doubt with a back problem.
Marcos Rojo and Diogo Dalot will be involved with the U23s as they continue their recovery, while Phil Jones remains sidelined. There is a boost for United though, with Luke Shaw available for selection, having recovered from the head injury he sustained on international duty with England. The Red Devils will line up in a 4-3-3 setup as they look to build on the victory over Burnley with another strong display.
David De Gea will start between the sticks, with an eye on securing his second clean sheet of the season. Captain Antonio Valencia will start at right-back, but it is unlikely that Mourinho will thrust Shaw back into action right away meaning Ashley Young is in line to replace the former Southampton man at left-back. In the heart of the defence, Chris Smalling will be partnered up with Victor Lindelof.
Fellaini was a huge influence in the win over the Clarets last time out, but with his involvement in doubt, Fred is likely to return to the starting XI. That could see Nemanja Matic drop into the anchorman role. The third midfield slot will be occupied by Paul Pogba, who will be hoping to draw attention away from all the negative press with a strong performance.
Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez are set to be retained on the right and the left flanks respectively, with Mourinho relying on the duo to pull the strings in the final third. Last season’s club top scorer Romelu Lukaku will lead the line at the Vicarage Road.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Young; Fred, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Lukaku, Alexis;
- Watford have lost 14 of their last 15 games in all competitions with Manchester United, winning the other one – a 3-1 triumph at home in the Premier League in 2016.
- Of teams they’ve faced 10 or more times, only against Wigan (94%) have Manchester United recorded a higher win rate in the Premier League than they have versus Watford (90% – 9 wins from 10).
- This is the first time that Watford have started a top-flight campaign with four wins from their opening four games. They have won four consecutive home games in the top-flight for the first time since December 1986.
- Manchester United have won the last 24 Premier League matches in which they’ve scored the opening goal.
- Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in six goals in five Premier League appearances against Watford (three goals, three assists), scoring in both of his games at Vicarage Road.
- Jose Mourinho has won five of his six Premier League clashes with Watford (L1), including the last three.
1. Manchester United to win @ 1.95
2. Both Teams to Score – NO @ 1.95
3. Romelu Lukaku to score anytime @ 2.30
Romelu Lukaku to score 2 or more @ 7.50
Player to Watch
Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
The Belgian powerhouse scored both of United’s goals in the last game against Burnley, atoning for a lacklustre display in the defeat to Tottenham. Coming on the back of a fruitful international break, during which he bagged three goals in two games for Belgium, the former Chelsea and Everton man will be hoping to build on that form against the Hornets.
Lukaku has now scored 19 goals in 38 league games for United. Should he net in this match, he will become the fourth fastest to reach 20 league goals for the Red Devils behind Ruud van Nistelrooy (26 games), Robin van Persie (32) and Dwight Yorke (34).
Watford 1-2 Manchester United
Gracia’s men will be high on confidence after their stunning start to the season and the comeback win against Spurs last time out will have boosted their morale further. Going up against United at home, they will back themselves to come out on top again.
However, the Red Devils showed great fire and intent in their victory over Burnley and will be more than able to match the physicality of the home team. Both defences will be in for a stern test, but we at the Hard Tackle expect Manchester United to edge past Watford and bring an end to their winning start to the campaign, with Lukaku likely to be the difference maker.