After two consecutive defeats, it seems the sun has set from the dawn of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United tenure, and now results will come from hard work and passion instead of excitement and hype. With two straight defeats, it seems United is still trying to find the system that works best for them in the Premier League and Europa League. Their opponents, Watford, are having the same problem, as players struggle to adapt to Walter Mazarri’s preferred 3-5-2 formation. This contest promises to be a cagey one with a couple of decisive moments, but who will end in the positive?
Elton Wolf: Manchester United will be looking to bounce back after a second straight defeat, and they look to do so against a fine-looking Watford side, who are coming out of a 4-2 win against West Ham. United looked very poor yet again in the Europa League against Feyenoord, with first team players such as Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, and Marcus Rashford failing to live up to the expectations. United needs to play just as they have done in the last two second halves, and Jose Mourinho needs to ensure that his squad get a much-needed win in order to continue with a strong start in the Premier League. With that being said, here is my prediction for United’s starting XI:
Starting XI: De Gea; Shaw, Blind, Bailly, Valencia; Herrera, Fellaini; Pogba; Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimovic
Anthony Martial has not looked like the Martial that we saw last season, and I believe a much-needed break will do him good in hopes that he comes back strong. To substitute in for him, I have included Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who I believe will give Manchester United a much-needed option going forward. In defense, I have gone back to the defense that started against Manchester City, as I believe that Dailey Blind has a unique talent of being able to control his side from the back. Further forward, I have continued Paul Pogba in the number 10 position, as I believe he has more to offer than club captain Wayne Rooney. This enabled Ander Herrera to keep his place, but unfortunately Morgan Schneiderlin has been replaced by Marouane Fellaini, who has transformed into a great footballer under Jose Mourinho. Lastly, I have predicted Rashford to play in the team, as I believe that he still has a lot to offer, especially if he is able to create opportunities for his teammates.
Prediction: Watford 1-3 Manchester United
Aaron Moniz: With Chelsea losing to Liverpool, United needs to win to keep the gap between the rest of the league and neighbours Manchester City at a minimum. Again, I’ve gone with what I want to see and not what will necessarily happen, with a couple of exceptions. At right-back, I want to see Timothy Fosu-Mensah, but Jose Mourinho already said that Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw will play. It would be unfair to play Daley Blind against Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, so I want to see Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly together.
In midfield, Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera looked good against Feyenoord and Paul Pogba needs to be persisted with, in a proper role. Wayne Rooney shouldn’t play, but Mourinho said he would and no one has earned their place ahead of him, so he can play off Zlatan Ibrahimovic with Valencia providing the width on the right. On the left, I’ve gone with the left-field selection (pun intended) of Ashley Young, simply because Henrikh Mkhitaryan is injured, as aforementioned there are no other options, and Young will provide extra width, the way he threw everything into balance in Louis van Gaal’s first season. Young wasn’t world class, but everyone else benefitted from his presence and he was good enough to warrant it.
Starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw; Herrera, Schneiderlin, Pogba; Rooney, Ibrahimovic, Young
Watford’s strikers can cause United problems, but with Bailly and Smalling at the back, the problem will be moving forward and not defending. I don’t expect Pogba to change the game but I would anticipate a much better performance in his new role and with Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin in midfield, United will have too much for Watford. If Watford plays 3-5-2, Rooney and Ibrahimovic will provide much-needed numbers up front and Young could be the cutting-edge difference out wide. I expect United to get a bare goal and it will be enough to win unconvincingly.
Prediction: Watford 0-1 Manchester United
Matt Henderson: It’s already becoming difficult to maintain my original optimism. As sensationalist as that sounds, the last 2 outings have left me at rather a low ebb and the Feyenoord game had me almost suicidal. However, the league is the main focus I feel this season and though the first half was an aberration against Manchester City, the second half showed some improvements. No matter how poor results have been in the last two games Mourinho is learning each week who fits the bill best, and I genuinely expect something much better come Sunday morning against Watford. The players that shouldn’t be starting have certainly come to the fore, and as such the lineup should look something like this;
Starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw; Pogba, Blind, Herrera; Martial, Ibrahimovic, Rooney
The three in the middle allows Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera license to push forward and be the creative force we all know they can be. With Blind sat as an anchor they will be able to play a far bigger role in the way United attack, and having Blind’s passing range and reading of the game in the middle of the park gets me excited thinking about it. I fear it won’t happen, but I think most will agree it should do. I’d rather Rashford start over Rooney, because while Rooney is holding his place in the starting side the three in the middle just won’t happen, but he is the captain and will start. Goalscorers, Ibrahimovic is obviously the one United will look to and he almost goes without saying. Depending on system others come into the reckoning (Martial, Pogba, Herrera and Rooney) but Ibrahimovic is the main threat. It’s been a tough week that’s for sure, but I’m certainly hopeful things will start to click and that Sunday can be the game they do.
Prediction: Watford 0-3 Manchester United