Manchester United -v- Watford
Old Trafford, Manchester
Saturday 26 February 2022, KO 15:00 GMT
Referee: Kevin Friend – Assistants: Adrian Holmes, Simon Beck
Fourth Official: Dean Whitestone
VAR: Lee Mason – Assistant VAR: Timothy Wood
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.
Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWWDDL
Atletico Madrid 1-1 D, Leeds United 4-2 W, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 W, Southampton 1-1 D, Burnley 1-1 D, Middlesbrough 1-1 (8-7) L
Goals: 15 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 9 – Bruno Fernandes, 6 – Mason Greenwood, 5 – Marcus Rashford, 4 – Jadon Sancho, 3 – Anthony Elanga, Fred, 2 – Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, 1 – Own Goal, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek
Assists: 14 – Bruno Fernandes, 8 – Paul Pogba, 5 – Luke Shaw, 4 – Fred, 3 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 2 – Mason Greenwood, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, 1 – Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Scott McTominay, Alex Telles, Raphael Varane
Watford – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: LWLLDL
Crystal Palace 4-1 L, Aston Villa 1-0 W, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 L, West Ham United 1-0 L, Burnley 0-0 D, Norwich City 3-0 L
Goals: 9 – Emmanuel Dennis, 5 – Joshua King, Ismaïla Sarr, 3 – João Pedro, 2 – Ashley Fletcher, Cucho Hernández, 1 – Juraj Kucka, Moussa Sissoko
Assists: 5 – Emmanuel Dennis, 4 – Kiko Femenía, 3 – Joshua King, 2 – Tom Cleverley, Cucho Hernández, 1 – Craig Cathcart, Ashley Fletcher, Ben Foster, João Pedro, Ismaïla Sarr, Moussa Sissoko
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.
Team News: Two players ruled out for United; one ruled out for Watford but the visitors also have some doubts ahead of the clash at Old Trafford.
Manchester United: Edinson Cavani (Groin) and Scott McTominay (Illness) are the only players to be ruled out of the clash with Watford on Saturday. It could be good news for Hannibal Mejbri, who could find himself included in the squad once again – it would be good to see him play.
Watford: Nicolas Nkoulou (Thigh) is the only injured player for Watford and will miss this match. Joshua King (Lower Back) is a doubt and will be assessed. Peter Etebo is lacking match fitness but Joao Pedro and Juraj Kucka should be back in action.
Predicted Starting XI: Dalot, Telles, Matic and Elanga to replace Lindelöf, Shaw, Fred and Rashford? Ronaldo to lead the line with Fernandes and Pogba in midfield?
Rangnick should not make massive changes ahead of this match. Watford beat United earlier this season, which their fans still brag about despite heading back to the Championship, which is the likely scenario. It leaves them with nothing to brag about, just many people laughing at them.
United will need to ensure that Watford to not travel to the Theatre of Dreams will the confidence they had when they beat United back on November which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer depart the club. United need to help make their return to the Championship next season.
David De Gea should keep his place in the team as I believe that he’s the best goalkeeper in the squad at this time, based on form. Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles should play in the fullback positions with Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire in the centre of the defence.
In midfield, Nemanja Matić should return to the starting XI slotting in behind Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. Anthony Elanga should start on the left-wing with Jadon Sancho on the right-wing and Cristiano Ronaldo as the striker with the continued absence of Edinson Cavani.
Match Prediction: United have not lost to Watford at Old Trafford since 1978 and never lost at home in the league against them in the history of the two clubs.
United and Watford have met 36 times in the history of both clubs. United have won 24 times, drawing five times and losing just seven times. United were beaten 4-1 by Watford in there last meeting, which signalled the end of Solskjaer.
This time, United must signal something for Watford and that will be to effectively make their escape of the relegation zone a big problem for them as the season starts to head into the end phase with just 13 matches, including this one, for Watford to play.
United have only lost to Watford three times in the Premier League era, a 3-1 defeat in the 2016/17 season, a 2-0 defeat in the 2019/20 season and the clash earlier in the season which was a big 4-1 defeat. That will need to change.
Watford have not beaten United at Old Trafford since the 2-1 League Cup defeat on the 4 October 1978 – Watford have never beaten United in the league at Old Trafford, but there could always be that first time. United need to fight and grind out this win to remain in the top four.
Manchester United 2-1 Watford
Written by John Walker