Our writers previews the Sunday lunch-time kick-off between Watford and Manchester United.
Manchester United’s derby day defeat confirmed that Jose Mourinho’s task is not just going to be solved by dollars and cents. There are still fundamental issues that afflict this side. However, few could envisage a Van Gaal-era, United putting up the same fight as Mourinho’s men on Saturday.
Watford’s comeback victory at West Ham was perhaps one of the most unbelievable ones that I have ever witnessed. West Ham seemed to be sauntering to victory, eschewing normal assists for crowd pleasing ‘Rabonas’. And the most amazing thing was that Mazzari’s men had no form to speak of behind their name. So this will be anything but a formality for the Red Devils.
Watford v Manchester United | Sunday 18 September | Vicarage Road | 13:00
To Win (90 Mins)
United have Pogba and Fellaini in the heart of the midfield, a much more potent defensive proposition than the likes of Noble and Lanzini. Pererya will not be afforded the same kind of space. Additionally, I doubt that Holebas and Janmaat will push forward with the same sense of abandon that they exhibited at West Ham. I’m sure that Mourinho will unleash Marcus Rashford on Janmaat: The Dutchman is a defender with a reputation for ill-discipline and could find himself embroiled in a nervous tussle with Rashford. Watford will do well not to get too carried away with their victory and expect a United backlash.
Mourinho will be pleased with the grit that his side displayed in that second half against City. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was clearly not 100% fit while Lingard barely registered in one’s consciousness. Rashford and Mata changed the dynamic of the game. Mata, along with Rooney, was the one United player who was able to ferret the ball under pressure. Rashford’s pace and direct approach caused City’s backline all sorts of problems. I expect Mourinho - obviously contingent on events in Europe on Thursday night - to draft both players into the side.
Fellaini and Pogba will be tasked with stopping service to Deeney and Ighalo. I expect Shaw and Valencia to keep Holebas and Janmaat honest, allowing Rooney and co far more time on the ball. The ever-magnanimous Zlatan Ibrahimovic will no doubt relish the challenge of systematically pulling Watford’s three centre-backs apart. Ibra is almost the ideal striker to possess when confronted with one of these continentally favoured 3-5-2 formations. He will physically disrupt them and will keep possession under extreme pressure. This is an area where United could prosper if Rashford and Rooney look to get beyond Ibra.
Verdict: HT/FT Double - Draw/Man United (31/10)
I’m opting for a bold call following some fairly accurate predictions in recent weeks. Mourinho’s side may come out weary and make for a cagey first stanza. But I expect United to create enough chances as the match progresses to steal it in the second.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets