Match Preview: Manchester United vs Watford
By George Nolan
Manchester United will be looking to rebound from their floundering run of form when they travel to Vicarage Road to take on Watford this Saturday.
The Red Devils slumped to a disappointing 2-0 home derby defeat at the hands of Manchester City before the international break, whilst Watford lost 1-0 to Arsenal, leaving the Hornets perched just outside the relegation zone.
Claudio Ranieri’s men enter the fixture on the back of two successive 1-0 defeats to Arsenal and Southampton, failing to kick on from their emphatic 5-2 victory against Everton. They sit 17th in the league, just two points ahead of 18th placed Burnley.
The victory versus the Toffees is the Hornets’ only win in their last five league outings, it is also the only game from their last five that they managed to score, failing to score in defeats to Arsenal, Southampton, Liverpool and Leeds. In fact, no team has failed to score in more different Premier League matches than Watford this season (seven). In the four games in which the Hornets have managed to find the net, however, they’ve netted at least three goals on three occasions.
Watford staff and fans alike will be pinning their hopes on Joshua King recapturing the form he showed when he hit a hattrick against former side Everton, as he prepares to lead the line against the club he came through the youth ranks of, making two appearances for the Manchester side.
Despite a 3-2 home opening day victory against Aston Villa, Watford have failed to win at home since (1D 3L). They will be hoping to turn their home form around when they welcome Man United to Vicarage Road, who they beat 2-0 the last time they hosted back in December 2019.
Defeat against Manchester City again led to speculation regarding the future of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the Norwegian will remain in the dugout for the clash against the Hertfordshire based outfit.
That loss vs the Citizens left his side in 6th, five points adrift of 4th placed Liverpool, having only claimed four points from their previous six league outings. The importance of claiming a victory this weekend is crucial to keeping pace with the leading pack and staving off the inevitable ‘crisis’ and intensified job pressure that comes with every lacklustre result.
He will be looking to arrest the poor form his team currently finds themselves in. Like Watford, Man United only have one win in their last five Premier League outings, with 12 goals conceded, only Norwich have conceded more (13) during that stretch.
In spite of United’s defensive frailties, the two clean sheets they’ve obtained this season have come away from home, and given Watford’s ‘hit and miss’ nature in front of goal in recent fixtures, the Red Devils may fancy their chances to sure up the defence.
History has typically favoured United in this fixture. In the top flight, United have won 18 of their 26 matches against Watford, a win ratio of 69%. Among teams they’ve faced at least 20 times in their top-flight history, they only have a higher win ratio against Luton Town (73% - played 30 won 22).
Ranieri is sweating on the fitness of Ozan Tufan, who picked up a knock for Turkey during the international break and will be hopeful of having the Turk available for Saturday.
The likes of Ken Sema, Peter Etebo, Kwadwo Baah, Christian Kabasele and Francisco Sierralta are all side lined and will play no part in the fixture.
Juraj Kucka picked up a suspension against Arsenal and so another former Man United player, Tom Cleverley, is likely to take his place in central midfield.
Meanwhile Man United won’t be able to call upon the likes of Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba.
The likes of Rashford and Shaw played no part for England during the break due to their respective fitness issues. Solskjaer said that the pair had ‘been part of the last couple days of training’ and so one or both may be in line for a starting berth.
Cavani and McTominay are also doubtful, as the Scot pulled out of his nation’s internationals with illness, so Donny Van de Beek may be in line for a rare start. However, Solskjaer has said that the Scotsman has ‘trained the last couple of days’ and had looked ‘bright and fit’.