Manchester United return to action in the Premier League where they will welcome Watford to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon. United and Watford were both in action on Wednesday with United drawing 1-1 with Atletico Madrid and Watford falling to a 4-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
Ralf Rangnick’s side will need to get back to winning ways in the Premier League to keep their assault on a top four finish this season alive. In the past three matches, United had won twice and drawn once with Rangnick defeated only twice so far, one on penalties.
At the time of writing, Watford sit 19th in the league with just 18 points from 25 matches, which puts them in a relegation battle that at they might not get out of. Burnley sit in 18th place with 20 points but have two games in hand over both Watford and Norwich City – who are at the bottom.
United sit in fourth place in the league at this stage, having replaced West Ham United, who have four points fewer after 26 matches being played by both teams. United could see Arsenal challenge as they have three games in hand and are four points behind United.
Previous meetings with Watford and their connections with United.
United and Watford have met a total of 15 times in the Premier League. United have won 12 times, drawing no matches with Watford winning three times. United have scored 32 goals, winning two penalties, scoring both. Watford have scored 18 goals, winning five penalties, scoring four.
United have kept five clean sheets in these fixtures with Watford keeping one. Discipline is a problem with United played shown 22 yellow cards and three red cards and Watford players shown 26 yellow cards and two red cards.
Danny Webber, Chris Eagles, James Garner, Reece Brown, Tomasz Kuszczak, Danny Drinkwater, Craig Cathcart, Tom Cleverley, Ben Foster, Jimmy Davies, Odion Ighalo, Joshua King, Ashley Fletcher and Danny Welbeck have all played for United and Watford.
Foster, Brown, Drinkwater, Davies, Eagles, Webber, Cathcart, Cleverley, King, Welbeck and Fletcher all came through United’s academy before leaving, some before featuring for the first team. Young and Ighalo played for Watford before United and Garner is the only player still owned by United.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Watford in the Premier League at the Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
After Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid, David De Gea will be determined to get a better result against Watford at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday. United need to keep chase on a top four finish this season and with Arsenal gaining ground.
United should have taken advantage of things before this stage of the season and the recent draws in the Premier League will cost them, especially if Arsenal are able to win their two matches in hand, which will rise to three with the club not in action this weekend.
De Gea is a player that has high standards but the defensive errors being made in front of him do not meet those same standards. United’s players need to take a long hard look at themselves and raise their game, their professionalism and standards to succeed this season.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles
Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles should replace Victor Lindelöf and Luke Shaw in the fullback positions against Watford. Neither did a great job against Atletico Madrid and standards will need to be high against Watford, considering the club beat them convincingly only a few months back.
Raphael Varane should keep his place in the centre of the defence as he is probably the best defender at the club, doing what he needs to do silently and without the attention on him. United’s defenders should learn from him, considering his record in the game.
Harry Maguire had a poor performance against Atletico Madrid considering his performance against Leeds United only a few days prior to that. He will need to find a way to rediscover his best form and build on that or the summer could be frustrating for him under a new manager.
Midfield Three: Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes was a frustrated figure against Atletico Madrid but managed to get his 14th assist of the season for Anthony Elanga’s goal which drew the sides level in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 clash. He needs to keep starting matches but will need a rest soon.
Paul Pogba has been a good player since returning from his injury but he tires a lot in the second half, which is something that he needs to be overcoming. He should keep his place in the team for this match but perhaps needs to make way after the hour if the same things happens again.
With Scott McTominay out of action for this match with illness, Nemanja Matic should return to the starting XI once again. He might be old but he is a solid option in the defensive area of the midfield and with Pogba and Fernandes ahead of him, there is plenty of movement in the midfield.
Forwards: Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Elanga
Cristiano Ronaldo will need to lead the line against for United with Edinson Cavani still on the sidelines. He did not have the greatest match against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday and his service was lacking, which signalled his frustration clearly. United need to do better for him.
Jadon Sancho was not in the same level of form on Wednesday as he was against Leeds but I am sure he can get things working in that department once again. He should perhaps play on the right-wing being that Anthony Elanga is in some great form which should see him start too.
Elanga has scored two goals in his last two matches and that kind of form needs to be rewarded with a start, which will mean a lot for him. He really is a player that will go on to become a top players at United. His skill, ability and everything else has him on the right track, which is great to see.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Hannibal Mejbri; Marcus Rashford
United will not have so many substitutes in this match, using three of the nine players allowed on the bench. That said, United have a good enough squad to be beating Watford and after the result in November, they should be out to do just that.
Dean Henderson will remain on the bench once again, which will be a blow for him – but he will get opportunities. Victor Lindelöf, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw could all be available in the defensive positions, which gives United a chance to change their gameplan, if needed.
Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred and Hannibal Mejbri could be available in the midfield positions, and Hannibal would benefit from some time on the pitch, if there is a chance tat could happen. Marcus Rashford should be on the bench in this fixture as he needs to find some form once again.
Written by John Walker