Two teams off the back of huge victories will come face to face at Old Trafford this weekend as United entertain Watford in the Ashley Young derby. Jose Mourinho’s victory against champions Leicester was essential following three successive draws, leaving them still struggling to break the top four.
Watford secured back-to-back wins for only the second time this season after defeating Arsenal and Burnley 2-1 in the last couple of weeks. At this stage of the campaign, European football is undoubtedly a step too far for Walter Mazzarri’s side, but they’re still more than capable of securing a top-half finish.
Manchester United have done well to establish Old Trafford as a fortress, losing just one home game this season against their city rivals. However, despite going on such a long unbeaten streak since, they have been victims of their casual approach to winnable games. Both their draws against Liverpool and Stoke City saw them initially fall behind before snatching a late winner at the death. The game against Leicester was refreshing in the sense that it showed United at their brilliant best – for the first time in 2017. Despite all the negatives, Jose Mourinho’s side doesn’t lose regularly and are the only side in the league not to have been defeated in their last ten matches.
Watford’s form has been diverse and erratic. 99% of the footballing world expected them to lose against Arsenal a few weeks ago, yet they produced a wonderful first half display to conquer the Gunners. Prior to that game, however, they had only won once in their last 10 matches, easily being swept aside by the likes of Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. Away from home, they have a poor record of seven goals scored in their previous 10 games, epitomised by their 6-1 drubbing by Liverpool in November.
Jose Mourinho experimented with the traditional 4-4-2 formation for the rout of Leicester, having failed with 4-3-3 in the previous matches. With Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones set to return to the squad for the upcoming game, there are plenty of decision headaches. Given Jones’s good form prior to his injury, he’d be the most likely of the two to take his place back in the starting XI, with either Marcus Rojo or Eric Bailly giving way.
Mazzarri has less reason to tinker with his formation, but may be tempted to switch back to the 4-5-1 he implemented against Arsenal in order to keep the defence tighter away from home. The only selection dilemma would be in the winger department. Zarate found himself dispossessed on quite a few occasions against Burnley and wasn’t up to standard. Daryl Janmaat is able to play the wide midfielder role with defensive awareness, whilst the Watford boss might be tempted to gamble on 21-year-old Isaac Success.
……..Manchester United predicted starting XI Watford predicted starting XI
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Nordin Amrabat and Christian Kabasele have begun training again with the full squad and might be available for selection come Saturday, although it’s doubtful if either will make the starting XI.
Manchester United have no new major injury concerns but will be keeping watch over the fitness levels of Marcus Rojo, Phil Jones, and Wayne Rooney.
Manchester United’s strong home form combined with Watford’s inability to win more than two games in a row makes it seem like it’s destined to be a home victory. United’s 3-0 victory against Leicester will be the catalyst for a good performance, and whilst Watford have been on a good run of form themselves, it would be incredibly difficult to replicate the heroics of Arsenal. It should be a tight game, however…
Score prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Watford