Match Previews

Match Preview: Manchester United vs Watford

Following a first Europa League leg draw in Belgium, United return home to face Watford in a huge game with implications at both ends of the table.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær was frustrated but ultimately content on Thursday after the match in Bruges and has the Champions League places in sight. In the opposing dugout, Nigel Pearson needs to now focus on avoiding the drop following his honeymoon period coming to an end.

With first-team football back at Old Trafford after 22 days. the ball game has gotten a whole lot more serious.

Kick-off: 14:00

Venue: Old Trafford

Referee: Martin Atkinson

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Position: 19th

Recent form: DLLLD

Top goalscorer: Troy Deeney [5]

Most assists: Gerard Deulofeu [5]

Previous result: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-1 Watford (Abdoulaye Doucouré)

Opposition lowdown

Sitting second-bottom of them table, Watford are just one point from safety but are winless in four games after a boost under new-ish manager Pearson, which saw them pick up 13 points from a possible 15 in the league.

Pearson’s first win and start of that run came against United in December. Two goals in four second-half minutes from Ismaïla Sarr and Deeney (who punished David De Gea’s error) were enough to send Vicarage Road into a rare sense of delirium this season.

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Injuries/suspensions (estimated return)

  • Daryl Janmaat – knock (close to return)
  • Ismaïla Sarr – hamstring (back in training)
  • Kiko Femenía – hamstring (back in training)

Expected lineup

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

Quote from the boss

“Our next two fixtures on the face of it are very difficult. But they are great fixtures for us as well and I think they’re the types of games that every player should look forward to playing and every manager or coach should look forward to being involved in.” – Nigel Pearson

Next match: Liverpool [H] 29/2

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A poorly-conceded goal against Club Brugge in midweek was thankfully cancelled-out by Anthony Martial’s second goal in as many games since the winter break, as the game finished 1-1.

Thursday’s second leg is therefore in United’s control at present but leading by away goals is a precarious position to be in.

Onto the bread and butter, relative Premier League success remains on the cards. Chelsea’s win over Tottenham Hotspur means United would go into 5th win a win here, which could possibly mean Champions League qualification if 2nd-place Manchester City’s Han is upheld.

On paper, this is the Red Devils’ easiest fixture in the tough run between now and mid-March. However, Solskjær will be more than aware anyone of how the reverse fixture scuppered form that his team had built prior to Christmas.

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Team news

David De Gea and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are set to return to the starting XI for Sergio Romero and Diogo Dalot respectively.

Fred and Bruno Fernandes were subbed on during the second-half in the Europa League and are set to be involved from the off today.

Odion Ighalo also came on and could well make his full debut against his former Premier League club, for which he scored 16 goals in 55 appearances.

According to the Manchester Evening News, both Jesse Lingard and Andreas Periera have been omitted from squad for this one, while Scott McTominay is back and could replace Nemanja Matić, who has been a regular as of late.

Matić, 31, has put in admirable displays since being called upon over the winter but may be in need of a rest. He has often praised McTominay for his ability and, above all, attitude.

On on his fellow defensive-midfielder’s return, he said: “I am not worried, I am happy when he is in the team because he is the kind of player I like. I like to train with them. As a person, he is very good. I am happy he is back and hope he will avoid injuries in the future.”

Mason Greenwood has also recovered from illness and should be involved.

Injuries/suspensions (estimated return)

  • Eric Bailly – knock (late assessment)
  • Lee Grant – unknown (three months)
  • Paul Pogba – ankle (unknown)
  • Marcus Rashford – back (two months)
  • Axel Tuanzebe –knock (back in training)

Expected lineup

(4-2-3-1) De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Matić, Fred; James, Fernandes, Martial; Ighalo

Quote from the boss

“It’s a chance for us, a chance for the boys. We’ve given many of them a rest so they should be fresh and ready for that game. The boys know that we cannot have too many slip-ups if we are going to challenge for the top four.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Next match: Club Brugge [H] 27/2

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– Harry Maguire vs Troy Deeney

– Scott McTominay vs Abdoulaye Doucouré

– Anthony Martial vs Adrian Marriapa


  • United have won all six of their Premier League games against Watford at Old Trafford, scoring 14 goals and conceding just two
  • Watford have never won an league match at Old Trafford in 12 attempts (D2 L10), losing each of their last eight in a row after last avoiding defeat in November 1985 in a 1-1 draw
  • The Red Devils have failed to score in their last two Premier League home games (0-2 v Burnley, 0-0 v Wolverhampton Wanderers). They last went three without a goal at Old Trafford in May 2002.
  • After a six-game unbeaten run under Nigel Pearson (W4 D2), the Hornets have lost two of their last three Premier League games (D1)

Enjoy the match!

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