Manchester United finally closed in on 4th-placed Chelsea by completing their first league double over them in 32 YEARS (!!). But the real test starts now. To maintain their surge towards a Champions League position, they must win the easy games.
Ironically, the Red Devils have struggled to put away the “smaller” teams in the Premier League. They lost to Watford in December in what could be termed as their worst performance this season. Since then, the Hornets have remained pegged to a relegation battle.
Facing up against relegation contenders, United must come up with a thumping win. They have enough firepower & momentum on their side to ensure it, but their wonky recent home form suggests it’ll be an unnecessarily tight encounter.
Manchester United Predicted XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Bailly, Shaw, Fred, Matic, Fernandes, James, Martial, Ighalo
Scott McTominay & Paul Pogba are training again, but won’t make this match. Victor Lindelof’s also a doubt, but expect Odion Ighalo to make his full debut.
Watford Predicted XI
Foster, Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina, Capoue, Hughes, Sarr, Deulofeu, Deeney
Daryl Janmaat & Tom Cleverley are absentees for Watford. Ismaila Sarr & Kiko Feminia are also recovering from slight knocks, but the former should play.
Manchester United vs Watford preview
United did the unthinkable (kidding) on Monday when they scored two goals from headers & one from a direct corner, something they haven’t from ages. Considering that Watford have conceded the second-most goals from set-pieces this season (15), this comes at a good time.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just needs to place the responsibilities onto the right individuals. Bruno Fernandes’ impressive showing at Stamford Bridge proved he should take every set-piece. He also needs those ahead to be making more productive movement to slice open defences into helping his attackers find more goals.
Daniel James needs to improve with his decision-making & time his pacy forward-runs better. Anthony Martial is slowly regaining his striker’s instincts. But he’ll probably drift wide against Watford, using his trickery & pace to torment them.
But all eyes should be on Watford’s former hitman, Odion Ighalo. He looked more a natural centre-forward than Martial in his Chelsea cameo, as his off-the-ball movement, hold-up play can help United break down packed defences.
This is his game to shine and make himself an Old Trafford favourite. Alongside Fernandes, Fred & Nemanja Matic will stand guard to hound the visitors but must be more creative with their attacking transitions.
While United’s defence now looks rock-solid with back-to-back clean-sheets, Watford will arrive high on energy & unpredictability after a two-week winter break. Gerard Deulofeu buzzes around like a bee, with his dribbling ability & stark goal-scoring instinct capable of troubling anybody.
Troy Deeney loves bullying defenders, while Isamaila Sarr is another dynamite with his blurry movement. Add to that Etienne Capoue+Abdoulaye Doucoure’s raw strength & hard-hitting style, things could get difficult.
However, Harry Maguire is flying high on confidence with a you-shall-not-pass attitude. Eric Bailly looks back to his bombastic best, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s showing more effectiveness going forward to compliment his solid defensive skills.
As long as United maintain concentration, this shouldn’t be that difficult. But as has been the case all season, they let their guard down against smaller sides & are made to pay. It’s time they put up a whirlwind on Sunday & prove their inconsistencies are well behind them.
Watford should put up a fight coming off their break, but I think United will manage to capitalize on their defensive worries. I’ll go with a 3-1 win for Ole’s men.