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Preview: Manchester United seeking to teach Watford a lesson for December defeat; Ighalo, Martial and Fernandes to tear them up?

Manchester United -v- Watford

Premier League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Sunday 23 February 2020, KO 14:00 GMT

Referee: Martin Atkinson Assistants: Lee Betts, Peter Kirkup Fourth Official: Anthony Taylor 

VAR: Andre Marriner Assistant VAR: Scott Ledger

Manchester United welcome Watford to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be seeking to get the better of Nigel Pearson’s side after their defeat back in December 2019, seeking to keep their chase on a place on the top four alive after their victory over Chelsea on Monday evening, which cut the deficit from six points to three points. Chelsea welcome Tottenham Hotspur this weekend, which could see United push closer.

After their 2-0 victory over Chelsea on Monday evening, United were back in UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening, drawing 1-1 with Club Brugge – the third time they had faced the Belgian club – the last time being during the 2015/16 season in the UEFA Champions League qualification rounds. Solskjaer’s side may be boosted by the result as he rested many of his first team players but will be seeking to kick on in the Premier League to keep their top four finish dreams alive.

Form: United are the team in better form with Watford winning just once in their last six matches, drawing twice and losing three times.

Manchester United: DWDWWL

Club Brugge 1-1 D, Chelsea 2-0 W, Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 D, Manchester City 1-0 W, Tranmere Rovers 6-0 W, Burnley 2-0 L

Watford: DLLLDW

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-1 D, Everton 3-2 L, Tranmere Rovers 2-1 L, Aston Villa 2-1 L, Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 D, Bournemouth 3-0 W

Top Scorers: United leading the way with goals scored, despite losing top scorer for perhaps the remainder of the season. Watford don’t seem to be scoring many goals at this present time, needing to find a way out if the relegation zone.

Manchester United Goals: 19 – Marcus Rashford, 12 – Anthony Martial, 10 – Mason Greenwood, 3 – Daniel James, Scott McTominay, 2 – Own Goal, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, 1 – Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Nemanja Matic, Andreas Pereira, Brandon Williams, Ashley Young

United need to keep moving forwards in their pursuit to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. They have two chances; winning the Europa League or finishing in the top four of the Premier League. Solskjaer made a good decision to rest a few players for the clash with Club Brugge on Thursday evening. The match against Watford is one that United need to win more to keep chase on a top four position, which is where they should be aiming to finish at the end of the season.

Watford Goals: 5 – Troy Deeney, Roberto Pereyra, 4 – Gerard Deulofeu, Abdoulaye Doucouré, Ismaila Sarr, 2 – Andre Gray, 1 – Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Cleverley, Tom Dele-Bashiru, Kaylen Hinds, Will Hughes, Daryl Janmaat, Adam Masina, Adalberto Peñaranda, Danny Welbeck

Watford are no longer rock bottom in the Premier League table, sitting six points better off than Norwich City, who look certain for relegation this season. They have won five matches, drawn nine and lost 12 so far in the league this season, so will need to pull something out of the bag soon or face the teams above them stretching their lead making it tough to get out of the bottom three. Watford have one win in their last five Premier League matches.

Team News: Six players on the sidelines for United with Rashford and Pogba, who both may not play football against this season. Watford have one player ruled out, and two with a chance of recovering.

United have six players on the sidelines through injury at this present time; Mason Greenwood (knock), Tim Fosu-Mensah (thigh), Axel Tuanzebe (thigh) – all of whom could be back in action at the start of next month, or before. Lee Grant (wrist) needed surgery so will be out for a period of months, Marcus Rashford (back) who may not play again this season, and Paul Pogba (ankle) who once again, as it gets to his return date the excuses keep coming and now he’s not yet ready to train, let alone play. Scott McTominay could be on the return though.

Watford have four players on the sidelines through injury at the present time; Daryl Janmaat (knee) who will be out until the end of the month, Kiko Femenia (thigh) and Ismaila Sarr (thigh) who both have a 75% chance of recovering in time for the visit to Old Trafford, and Tom Cleverley (lacking match fitness) who is currently being assessed as to whether he could face his former club at the Theatre of Dreams.

Predicted Starting XI: Martial and Ighalo to lead the line with Fernandes just behind them and McTominay reinforcing the midfield with his return from injury?

Solskjaer seems to have a few more injury problems at this moment in time with Mason Greenwood adding to the list with a knock, which could keep him out until the end of the month. This means that Anthony Martial and Odion Ighalo could lead the line with Bruno Fernandes sitting behind them with a midfield three of Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic. The back four could consist of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Brandon Williams with David De Gea returning in goal.

Match Prediction: United have won 22 of the 33 matches played against Watford, previously having an 11 match winning run and a five match winning run, losing twice, ending each run.

United and Watford have played a total of 33 matches in this history of both clubs with the first match being played in 1950. United have won 22 times, drawn five times and lost six times. United lost the reverse fixture 2-0 in December 2019 meaning that Solskjaer will be looking to get a result at home against the Hornets. Prior to that defeat, United had a five match winning run against Watford, lasting just over two years.

Before the 3-1 defeat in the Premier League in September 2016, United had an 11 match winning streak against Watford, which stretched from February 1987 until March 2016. Watford are a team that can get the better of United, as they have shown twice in the last four years or so. Solskjaer will be boosted by the fact that Odion Ighalo and Bruno Fernandes arrived in January plus other injured players possible coming into the fold.

Manchester United 2-0 Watford

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