Manchester United will be hoping to continue their unbeaten run when they welcome Watford to Old Trafford on Sunday.
Gameweek 27 of the 2019-20 Premier League will continue on Sunday, with three matches on show. Manchester United will be one of the teams in action, as they play hosts to Watford at Old Trafford, with high stakes involved on both ends of the table.
It has been a roller coaster of a season for Manchester United, for whom it has been a case of one step forward and another back all through the season. The same has been prevalent since the turn of the year, although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are in the middle of a five-game unbeaten run, with their latest Premier League result being a crucial 2-0 win at Chelsea earlier this week.
For Watford, on the other hand, the initial honeymoon period under Nigel Pearson slowly seems to be dissipating. The Hornets have won just one of their last seven games across all competitions, with this run including three of the four losses that Pearson has overseen in his reign so far. Last time out in the Premier League, the visitors were held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton & Hove Albion.
The reverse fixture, played at Vicarage Road back in December last year, ended in a shock 2-0 win for Watford, with Ismaila Sarr and Troy Deeney on target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has seen his squad’s injury woes improve considerably in recent weeks. Against Watford on Sunday, the Manchester United manager is likely to be without just four first-team players, although these absentees do include Paul Pogba and top scorer Marcus Rashford.
However, Scott McTominay has made progress this week and is in contention to feature in some capacity when Watford pay Manchester United a visit. However, McTominay is unlikely to start, meaning Nemanja Matic and Fred ought to start in the middle of the park.
Fred’s return to the side means Andreas Pereira drops out, with the Brazilian partnering Matic and looking to thwart the Watford midfielders while also moving the hosts forward with efficiency. Meanwhile, crucially, Solskjaer should keep faith in the 3-4-2-1 formation that has yielded some positive performances lately.
Eric Bailly was a revelation against Chelsea earlier this week and should return to the side, with Victor Lindelof likely to make way in the back three. Luke Shaw, who has looked at home in the three-man central defensive unit, and Manchester United captain Harry Maguire are certain starters at the back.
Shaw’s presence in the back three means Brandon Williams will continue to feature, starting as the left wing-back. On the opposite flank, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is expected to return, replacing Diogo Dalot, who failed to make an impression against Club Brugge in the Europa League on Thursday.
Another change to the starting lineup should see David de Gea return in goal, with Sergio Romero dropping to the bench. Meanwhile, former Watford striker Odion Ighalo is expected to continue waiting for his full debut, meaning Anthony Martial will lead the line for Manchester United once again. Behind him, the support will come from Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): de Gea; Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Wan-Bissaka, Fred, Matic, Williams; James, Fernandes; Martial
Like his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Nigel Pearson has received a boost on the team news front. On Sunday, the Watford boss is only likely to be without two first-team players, with Daryl Janmaat and Tom Cleverley both expected to return in the coming weeks.
The good news, though, is that Kiko Femenia could return for the first time in nearly two months. The Spaniard ought to come into the starting lineup in place of Adam Masina, starting as Watford’s left-back. In another boost, Ismaila Sarr is in contention to make the matchday squad, although he is unlikely to start.
In his absence, Roberto Pereyra will continue to feature on the right side of the Watford attack. On the opposite flank, Gerard Deulofeu will be in the spotlight, with the Spaniard being the key man in the final third against Manchester United. Troy Deeney will lead the line for Watford, hoping to disrupt the discipline of the Manchester United defence.
The X-Factor in midfield will come in the form of Abdoulaye Doucoure, whose ghosting runs and powerful bursts will come in handy for the visitors. Will Hughes and Etienne Capoue, meanwhile, will be in-charge of stifling Bruno Fernandes, effectively cutting off Manchester United’s creative flow.
At the back, Femenia should be joined by Craig Cathcart, Christian Kabasele and Adrian Mariappa, with the trio primarily focusing on sticking at the back to cut off any space available to the Manchester United attack. Finally, former Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Foster will line up between the sticks for Watford.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Foster; Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenia; Capoue, Hughes; Pereyra, Doucoure, Deulofeu; Deeney
- Manchester United have won all six of their Premier League games against Watford at Old Trafford, scoring 14 goals and conceding just two.
- In their entire league history, the only team Manchester United have faced more often at home without losing than Watford (12 games) is Hull City (13 games).
- Manchester United have failed to score in their last two Premier League home games (0-2 vs Burnley, 0-0 vs Wolves). They last went three without a goal at Old Trafford in May 2002.
- After a six-game unbeaten run under Nigel Pearson (W4 D2), Watford have lost two of their last three Premier League games (D1).
- Abdoulaye Doucoure has scored three goals in his last six Premier League appearances, as many as in his previous 34.
Player to Watch
Manchester United’s recent resurgence has been down to a better output from midfield. Nemanja Matic has rediscovered his form to a great extent, ending the doubts that had been placed on him after a horrendous 2018-19 season.
While end product in the final third has not always been on the money, Manchester United have looked less suspect to conceding goals when Matic has been in his elements. On Sunday, Matic will have the responsibility of negating the tricky Abdoulaye Doucoure, If he manages to do so, much of Watford’s threat will have been dealt with. A key proponent in midfield for the hosts, Matic.
Manchester United 2-0 Watford
With Manchester United this season, one thing is certain: nothing is certain in the games they play. The Red Devils were fantastic against Chelsea on Monday, but disappointed at Club Brugge in the Europa League. However, one could attribute their struggles on Thursday to the absence of Bruno Fernandes.
With the January signing returning against Watford, a better collective performance is expected. Watford will not make it easy, but after seeing their positive run come to a screeching halt, they could struggle once again. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co.