Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be aiming to kickstart his spell as the permanent Manchester United manager with a win against Watford on Saturday.

After a two-week hiatus due to the international break, Premier League returns to action this weekend and Manchester United will look to resume their battle for a top-four finish in the table when they host Watford at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.

Manchester United come into the game on the back of consecutive defeats to Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers (FA Cup), but will be boosted by the recent announcement confirming Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their full-time manager. Despite the recent defeats, the Red Devils have looked a much better unit under the Norwegian and will be hoping to return to winning ways this weekend.

Currently in the fifth place in the Premier League standings, a win would take Manchester United to the fourth spot, a point above Arsenal and level with third-placed Tottenham, who are scheduled to play on Monday and Sunday, respectively.

Watford head into Saturday’s fixtures having won four of their last six matches in all competitions, with the two defeats coming against the top six sides. Their most recent fixture ended in a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup quarter-finals. Javi Gracia’s men are stationed in eighth place on the league table and a win would see them move into seventh, provided Wolves fail to win against Burnley.

Watford have had a poor record against the “Big Six” sides this season in the Premier League. The Hornets have lost all but one of their nine fixtures against the top six Premier League sides and they will be hoping to bring an end to that run come Saturday.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester United

Solskjaer has ruled Alexis Sanchez out of the tie against Watford on Saturday, while right-backs Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian will also be absent.

Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial weren’t involved during the international break with injuries, but are expected to be fit and available. Eric Bailly picked up an injury while in action for Ivory Coast against Rwanda, but should be available when Watford come visiting.

David de Gea is the undisputed starter between the sticks for Manchester United, while the back four of Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof and Shaw pretty much picks itself.

The fit-again Matic should start in the holding midfield role for the Red Devils against Watford, with support coming from Ander Herrera, while Paul Pogba will look to offer the creative impetus from the middle.

Jesse Lingard, who returned from injury prior to the international break, will slot in the hole behind the two forwards and look to cause problems with his movement. Lukaku’s foot injury is likely to relegate him to the bench on Saturday, with Rashford and Martial set to slot in as the two central forwards for Manchester United.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): De Gea; Young, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard; Rashford, Martial

Watford

Jose Holebas is set to return to action, having recovered from an ankle injury, but former Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley is a major doubt for the game with a calf problem. There are no other injury or suspension concerns for Javi Gracia heading into the trip to Old Trafford.

Former Manchester United man Ben Foster should start in between the sticks for the Hornets on Saturday. Another former Red Devil, Craig Cathcart will line up at the heart of the defence, with Adrian Mariappa. Daryl Janmaat and Holebas should take up the full-back slots on the right and left sides, respectively.

Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue will slot in the two pivot positions in the middle of the park. The former can be a danger for Manchester United with his late runs into the box from the midfield and needs to be watched closely.

Will Hughes and Roberto Pereyra will take up the attacking midfield slots on the right and left channels and look to feed the strike partnership of captain Troy Deeney and former Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu. The duo have been in good form of late and can cause a few problems to the Red Devils defence that hasn’t always looked assured.

Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Foster; Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Deeney

Betting Odds

Favourable Bets

1. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.66

2. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.80

Underdog Bets

1. Race to Corners – 9 @ 3.00

Key Stats

  • Manchester United have won 10 of their 11 Premier League matches against Watford, losing the other in September 2016.
  • Watford have lost 16 of their last 17 away games in Manchester (vs Manchester United and Manchester City), since a 2-1 win against the Citizens in April 1987.
  • Manchester United haven’t lost three consecutive games in all competitions since September 2016, the third game of which was a 1-3 defeat against Watford.
  • Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu has had a hand in six goals in his last four Premier League games (4 goals, 2 assists).
  • Manchester United duo Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have scored nine Premier League goals each this season, with Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba having already reached double figures. The last time the Red Devils had three players reach 10 Premier League goals was 2012-13 (Javier Hernandez, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie), while the last time they had four reach double figures was 1995-96 (Paul Scholes, Andy Cole, Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona).

Player to Watch

Marcus Rashford

Manchester United's hopes will rest on Marcus Rashford (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Manchester United’s hopes will rest on Marcus Rashford (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

The 21-year-old England international has been rejuvenated since Solskjaer took over the reins at Manchester United in December last year. Rashford has netted 12 times in all competitions this season, while setting up 9 more as well from 38 appearances across all competitions.

Rashford’s tally of nine Premier League goals – five of which have come since Solskjaer came in as Jose Mourinho’s replacement, is his best for Manchester United. And he will be hoping to reach double figures in the English top-flight for the first time ever when he takes the field against Watford this weekend.

Prediction

Manchester United 3-1 Watford

Manchester United come into the game on the back of two defeats, but the announcement of Solskjaer’s full-time appointment will have buoyed the spirits within the squad. The international break has also allowed a few of the players to work on their fitness and they will come in with refreshed energy and a positive mindset.

Watford have had an excellent season by their standards, as they find themselves pushing for the seventh spot in the Premier League table, while having already made it to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. However, their record against the “Big Six” sides has been forgettable this season, while they have not tasted much success at Old Trafford in a very long time.

And as a result, we at The Hard Tackle are backing Manchester United to celebrate Solskjaer’s appointment with an important victory against the Hornets on Saturday afternoon.

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