Manchester United will be looking to close down the gap to the top four when they take on bottom dwellers Watford this weekend.

Manchester United will be aiming to get back to winning ways in the Premier League when they visit Vicarage Road on Sunday to take on relegation candidates Watford.

Watford are rooted to the bottom of the table with just nine points from 17 games. The Hornets have already sacked two managers this season, with Nigel Pearson the latest to take over the reins at Vicarage Road. His first fixture in charge ended in a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool last weekend and he will be hoping to guide his team to safety in the coming months.

After back to back wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the league, Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton last weekend. Having bounced back with a 3-0 win against Colchester in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be hoping to bag a win on Sunday and move within just a point of fourth-placed Chelsea in the table.

Manchester United defeated Watford 2-1 on their previous visit to Watford last year and ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Watford

Can Nigel Pearson get Watford's season back on track? (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Can Nigel Pearson get Watford’s season back on track? (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Former Manchester United stars Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley are both ruled out for the weekend clash, along with defenders Sebastian Prodl, Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas. However, Watford will be boosted by the return of Roberto Pereyra and Adam Masina, both of whom are back to full fitness.

Despite losing to Liverpool, there were some positives for Watford and keeping that in mind Pearson is unlikely to make a lot of changes to the team that started last week.

Former Manchester United man Ben Foster will line up between the sticks for the hosts, with Christian Kabasele and Craig Cathcart starting as the two centre-backs. The return to fitness of Masina could see him return to the starting XI at left-back, allowing Kiko Femenia to return to his natural right-back slot. Adrian Mariappa drops out to the bench.

Etienne Capoue and Will Hughes paired up in the double pivot in the middle of the park against Liverpool with Abdoulaye Doucoure slotting in as the No.10. But Pereyra’s return could see the former Juventus man line up behind the striker, with Doucoure returning to a deeper role at the expense of Hughes.

Gerard Deulofeu and Ismaila Sarr will once again start on the flanks and look to cause problems to the Manchester United defence with their pace and guile. Club captain Troy Deeney should spearhead the Watford attack on Sunday ahead of Andre Gray.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina; Doucoure, Capoue; Sarr, Pereyra, Deulofeu; Deeney

Manchester United

The big news for Manchester United is that superstar Paul Pogba is fit again and has travelled with the squad for the weekend game. However, it is unlikely that he will be thrust into action right away by the manager. Eric Bailly, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Marcos Rojo are set to miss out again.

There will be changes to the side that took the field against Colchester earlier in the week. Starting from goal, David de Gea is set to return to the lineup after being rested for the cup tie. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof also ought to return to the playing XI, with Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw likely to hold on to their places in defence.

Fred and Scott McTominay ought to pair up in the centre of the park for Manchester United, with Jesse Lingard returning in the No. 10 slot, ahead of Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira.

Daniel James should also be back to the side, after being rested for the midweek clash. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, both of whom scored in the win against Colchester, are likely to hold on to their spots in the team, with Mason Greenwood set to drop out to the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; James, Lingard, Rashford; Martial

Betting Odds

Probables:

1. Manchester United to win @ 1.75

2. Marcus Rashford to score anytime @ 2.25

Outside Chance:

1. Manchester United to WIN to NIL @ 3.00

Key Stats

  • Manchester United have won 11 of their 12 Premier League meetings with Watford (92%) – only against Wigan Athletic (15/16; 94%) do they have a higher win rate in the competition (min. 10 meetings).
  • After going six league games unbeaten against Manchester United between 1984-1986 (W2 D4), Watford have lost 14 of their last 15 against the Red Devils in the top-flight (W1).
  • No side are currently on a longer run without a Premier League clean sheet than Manchester United (12 games). The Red Devils last had a longer run without a clean sheet in the top-flight between September 1970-February 1971 (21 games).
  • Watford have won just nine points in their first 17 Premier League matches this season. Each of the previous nine occasions a team has won fewer than 10 points in their first 17 matches has seen them go on to be relegated.
  • Following their 2-1 win at Manchester City in their last away game, Manchester United are looking for back-to-back away league wins for the first time since February. They have lost just one of their last nine away games against sides starting the day bottom (W7 D1), going down 1-2 against Wolves in February 2011.

Player to Watch

Marcus Rashford

In red hot form (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

In red hot form (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The Manchester United academy graduate is enjoying his best campaign this time out, having already found the back of the net 14 times in 23 matches across all competitions. Rashford’s tally of ten goals in the Premier League is one more than Watford have managed as a team this term.

Rashford has scored four goals and set up one more in his last four appearances in all competitions. And Manchester United will once again look up to him to provide the goods in the final third as they look to get all three points at Vicarage Road this weekend.

Prediction

Watford 1-2 Manchester United

Manchester United have found it difficult to break down teams that set up with a deep defensive block and Watford are likely to employ similar tactics when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men come visiting. Poor finishing let the Hornets down against Liverpool last time out but Nigel Pearson’s side will be a danger to the Red Devils, who haven’t kept a clean sheet in 12 league games in a row.

However, the form that Marcus Rashford has been in of late, coupled with the threat that likes of Anthony Martial and Daniel James pose with their pace and movement, Manchester United should be able to eke out a narrow win against Watford at Vicarage Road this weekend.

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