A place in the fourth round of the FA Cup will be on the line when Manchester United play hosts to EFL Championship outfit Watford on Saturday night.
Manchester United will be raring to bounce back to winning ways when they lock horns with second division side Watford at Old Trafford in the third round of the FA Cup this weekend.
Manchester United saw their seven-game unbeaten streak come to a screeching halt earlier this week as neighbours Manchester City beat them 2-0 in the Carabao Cup semi-finals. Having been knocked out of one competition, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be keen to avoid a similar fate on Saturday as well and get back on track immediately.
Like their opponents, Watford, too, head into Saturday’s game on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Swansea City in the EFL Championship. New manager Xisco Munoz, who took over the reins from Vladimir Ivic last month, has won one and lost one of the two games he has been in charge of and will want to pull off a huge upset at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The last time Manchester United and Watford clashed was in February last year at Old Trafford in the Premier League, with the Red Devils winning 3-0. Ahead of their latest meeting in the FA Cup, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Manchester United confirmed the arrival of Amad Diallo from Atalanta on Thursday night. However, the teenager is unlikely to be involved on Saturday while veteran striker Edinson Cavani is out with suspension. Facundo Pellistri misses out after testing positive for coronavirus.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to make wholesale changes to the side that started against Manchester City in midweek. Dean Henderson is likely to be one of the few players to be retained in the lineup, with the Englishman getting the nod over David de Gea in goal.
Axel Tuanzebe could get a chance at right-back while Alex Telles gets the nod at left-back ahead of Luke Shaw. Eric Bailly, who would have felt unlucky to be dropped for the midweek clash, should return to partner Harry Maguire at the heart of the Manchester United defence, with Victor Lindelof making way.
Summer signing Donny van de Beek is in line to start after making a substitute appearance last time out. The Dutchman ought to start as the No. 10 on Saturday with Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay forming the double pivot. Juan Mata and Daniel James could be in line for rare starts out on the flanks against the Hornets.
Mason Greenwood should slot in as the centre-forward with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial being options on the bench. Odion Ighalo, whose loan deal with United expires at the end of the month, could be in line for a rare appearance from the bench against his former club.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Tuanzebe, Bailly, Maguire, Telles; McTominay, Matic; Mata, van de Beek, James; Greenwood
New manager Xisco Munoz will once again have to make do without Christian Kabasele, Stipe Perica and Isaac Success while Domingos Quina, Craig Cathcart and Joao Pedro are all doubts for the game. On-loan midfielder James Garner will be ineligible to feature against his parent club Manchester United.
“We’ve got nothing to lose. It will be a good stadium, a good pitch and maybe a chance to see our new signing, so it’s a positive game for us. We can go up there and try and show everyone what we’ve got.”
💬 Tom Cleverley 💬#MUNWAT
— Watford Football Club 💙 (@WatfordFC) January 8, 2021
Munoz has set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation his first two matches in charge and is likely to stick to the same setup at Old Trafford, with former Manchester United star Ben Foster lining up in goal. Kiko Femenia and Jeremy Ngakia ought to be the two full-backs for the Hornets, while Ben Wilmot and Francisco Sierralta slot in as the centre-backs.
Nathaniel Chalobah should be one of the two central midfielders for the visitors. The ex-Chelsea ace will look to shut out any creative influence of his Manchester United counterparts. He will have support from former Manchester United star Tom Cleverley, who will look to provide the box-to-box presence for Watford.
The threat from the wide areas will come from Ismaila Sarr, who had been linked with a move to Manchester United all summer. The Senegalese speedster should start on the right flank while Ken Sema gets the nod on the left. These two will look to provide chances to the strike partnership of Troy Deeney and Andre Gray.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Foster; Femenia, Sierralta, Wilmot, Ngakia; Sarr, Chalobah, Cleverley, Sema; Deeney, Gray
- This will be the seventh FA Cup meeting between Manchester United and Watford. The Red Devils have won four of the previous six while the Hornets have come out on top just once (D1).
- In their previous six FA Cup meetings, Manchester United have managed to keep three clean sheets and have conceded just three goals, while scoring 10.
- Manchester United have won 17 of their last 19 matches against Watford across all competitions, losing the remaining two.
- Watford have not won a single away game against Manchester United in all competitions since a 2-1 win in the League Cup in 1978. That remains their only win in 15 visits to Old Trafford till date (D3 L11).
- Manchester United have progressed from 33 of their last 35 third-round ties in the FA Cup. However, both failures during this run have come at home against Leeds United (2009/10) and Swansea City (2013/14).
Player to Watch
Donny van de Beek
Having arrived amid much fanfare from Dutch giants Ajax, Donny van de Beek hasn’t quite been able to carve out a place for himself in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting XI. The 23-year-old has been largely relegated to appearances from the bench in the Premier League, with the majority of his game time coming in the cup competitions.
Considering that he was left out on the bench for the Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City, there is a good chance that the Dutchman starts on Saturday. Amid calls for him to leave the club this month in search of regular playing time, Van de Beek will be aiming to put in a match-winning display and force his way into the manager’s plans for the second half of the season.
Manchester United 2-0 Watford
Watford have had an inconsistent campaign so far. The Hornets are still finding their way under the new management of Xisco Munoz, who has been in charge for just a couple of matches so far. Manchester United, meanwhile, will be licking their wounds after the midweek defeat and will be itching to get back to winning ways.
And even though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to make wholesale changes to the starting XI, the Red Devils should have enough quality to get over the line against a Watford side that has struggled on the road this season. To that end, The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Manchester United at Old Trafford.