Match Previews

Match Preview: Manchester United vs Watford

Manchester Evening News

United made it through to the final four of the league cup midweek but now must take an opportunity to make ground of the Premier League’s top four in a crucial weekend.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær took charge of his first match as interim manager almost a year to the day as Nigel Pearson takes charge of only his third match as Watford’s third boss of the season.

As Christmas approaches, Vicarage Road will be hoping for an present early present – a home win.

Kick-off: 14:00

Venue: Vicarage Road

Referee: Lee Mason

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Position: 20th

Recent form: LDLLL

Top goalscorer: Andre Gray/Gerard Deulofeu [2]

Most assists: Gerard Deulofeu [2]

Previous result: Liverpool 2-0 Watford

Opposition lowdown

Three managers and just nine points in, Watford’s season has been a shadow of their historic best ever campaign last time out.

Six draws and one win, away at second-bottom Norwich City, has seen both Javi Gracia and Quique Sánchez Flores arguably prematurely sacked.

Pearson took the reigns before 0-0 stalemate with Crystal Palace and last weekend’s 0-2 defeat to Liverpool but after saving Leicester City in 2015, the 56-year-old who most recently spent 17 months in Belgium with OH Leuven is confident he can keep the Hornets buzzing in the Premier League if Vicarage Road can help.

“We need to make this [Vicarage Road] the fortress that it has always been.

“I mean, every time I have been here as a player, coach or manager, I have always recognised what a tough fixture it is.”

Star man Gerard Deulofeu, who often blows hot and cold, is feeling positive about Pearson’s impact, saying: “We are playing I think much better.

“Because we are playing with more intensity, more high pressing and more ambition to take wins because we need it and we are happy.”

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Injuries/suspensions (estimated return)

  • Daniel Bachman – hamstring (unknown)
  • Tom Cleverly – heel (unknown)
  • Daryl Janmaat – knee (unknown)
  • Sebastian Prödl – knee (unknown)
  • Danny Welbeck – hamstring (unknown)

Expected lineup

(4-2-3-1) Foster; Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenía; Doucouré, Capoue; Sarr, Hughes, Deulofeu; Deeney

Quote from the boss

“When you play against Manchester United you know they’ve got quality, they’ve got players who are very capable of being match winners, so the most important thing for us is to raise our own levels of performance and find a level of consistency that will generate a better feeling within our fan-base.” – Nigel Pearson

Next match: Sheffield United [A] 26/12

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With a strong team winning 3-0 in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, it’s four wins and two draws in the six games this month for United.

Marcus Rashford was back amongst the goals while Anthony Martial notched to sandwich an own goal made by Mason Greenwood.

Solskjær celebrated a year in charge at United on Thursday, boasting a higher win percentage (52.7%) than Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur in this first year’s respectively.

Team news

Diogo Dalot featured for the U19s last night, playing 69 minutes in their 3-0 over AC Milan at Leigh Sports Village.

Prior to the game, the Portuguese full-back told the club’s website: I’m fully recovered and now it’s about getting back my fitness and coming back stronger to help the team.”

Paul Pogba will not be sold in January according to Solskjær, although may struggle to return before the New Year.

However, the Manchester Evening News reported this afternoon that the Frenchman boarded the team plane for the trip while Dalot, James Garner, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes missed out.

Solskjær commented on the latter pair’s current predicaments at the club, as both have been rumoured with moves away.

“Both of them are players we want to keep. I think they’re good talents,” he explained.

“They’ve had a couple of niggles and injuries so I haven’t been able to play them as much as I would like.”

The manager also had to deal with question on transfer speculation, specifically his Molde prodigy Erling Håland, as he was spotted with his father in Manchester airport yesterday.

Injuries/suspensions (estimated return)

  • Eric Bailly – knee ligaments (back in training)
  • Diogo Dalot – knock (late assessment)
  • Timothy Fosu-Mensah – knee (back in training)
  • Paul Pogba – ankle (day to day)
  • Marcos Rojo – muscle (two weeks)

Expected lineup

(4-2-3-1) De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; James, Lingard, Rashford; Martial

Quote from the boss

“You don’t fly off in the sky when you’re doing well and you don’t dig yourself a big hole when you’re not doing well.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Next match: Newcastle United [H] 26/12

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– Troy Deeney vs Harry Maguire

– Gerard Deulofeu vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka

– Abdoulaye Doucouré vs Scott McTominay


  • Watford have won just nine points in their first 17 Premier League matches this season; each of the previous nine occasions a team has won fewer than 10 points in their first 17 matches has seen them go on to be relegated
  • United have won 11 of their 12 Premier League meetings with Watford (92%) – only against Wigan (15/16; 94%) do they have a higher win rate in the competition (minimum 10 meetings)
  • The Hornets have converted just 4.7% of their shots in to goals in the Premier League this season (nine goals from 197 shots); this is the worst ratio by a Premier League side in a single season since Sunderland in 2002-03 (also 4.7%).
  • No side are currently on a longer run without a Premier League clean sheet than Red Devils (12 games); they last had a longer run without a clean sheet in the top-flight between September 1970-February 1971 (21 games)

Enjoy the match!

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