Manchester United vs Watford Preview

Manchester United on a revenge mission against Watford

The reverse fixture for this game saw Manchester United slump to a 4-1 loss to Watford at Vicarage Road. After two humbling defeats to Liverpool and Man City at Old Trafford, United looked all set to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the international break before the trip to Watford. Instead they offered support to the Norwegian who signed a new deal in the summer. However he was told he had to turn results around and fast. This game coming up was the perfect chance with Watford in atrocious form.

Two first half goals conceded, Maguire sent off at 2-1 while United were gaining control and two embarrassing late goals secured a 4-1 win for new boss, Claudio Ranieri but also secured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fate. Ole was sacked after this game with Michael Carrick appointed manager for the next three games until a replacement could be found.

Ole’s dismissal was a horrible day. The man gave everything to the club and was on the brink of something special. But the results this season and the imbalances and issues in the squad left him in a difficult position and one he never recovered from. I wish he could have been successful at the club and gone on to be the manager to take United back to their best but it wasn’t to be. No one can say for certain why the team collapsed on itself but it’s now a whole different set of circumstances for the United team:

The importance of this game:

Manchester United have to beat Watford on Saturday. With City, Spurs and Liverpool to come next month, United need the three points to continue securing their top four spot. Arsenal’s win over Wolves moved them a point behind United with two games fewer played. Admittedly these matches are Spurs and Chelsea but games nonetheless that could let them leapfrog United. Rangnick has to get United into the top four and has to win this game to build momentum for the trip to the Etihad. Here’s all you need to know:

Manchester United vs Watford Match Information:

Teams: Manchester United and Watford
Date: Saturday 26th February 2022
KO Time: 15:00 GMT
Stadium: Old Trafford
Managers: Roy Hodgson
Referee: Kevin Friend

Team News:

Manchester United

Manchester United missed Scott McTominay midweek against Atletico Madrid as he fell ill and is a doubt against Watford. He has been one of the standout players during Rangnick’s short reign and will be crucial for United’s season. Edinson Cavani will certainly miss the game with a groin injury.


Peter Etebo and Nicholas Nkoulou are unlikely to feature as they reportedly regain fitness. Josh King and Tom Cleverley both came off in the 4-1 loss to Palace and are serious doubts along with Joao Pedro and Juraj Kucka. Both of whom are out with knocks but will be assessed before the game tomorrow.

Interesting Facts:

  • Watford have won one game in their last 14 games in all competitions. The win to Aston Villa last weekend was their first in the Premier League since beating United at Vicarage Road.
  • Since the win over United, Watford have conceded 37 goals in 14 games. Watford have conceded three or more goals 10 times this season already.
  • Manchester United have lost away to Watford three times in the last six seasons (16/17, 19/20, 21/22). The last two times United lost away to Watford, they won comprehensively at Old Trafford, winning 2-0 in 2017 and 3-0 in 2020. Anthony Martial scored in both games.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo has two goals and two assists in his last four games against Watford. However he has one goal in his last 10 games and two non-penalty goals in his last 16 games.
  • Roy Hodgson has not lost a game at Old Trafford since March 2012 as West Brom manager in a 2-0 loss courtesy of a Wayne Rooney brace. He has won twice and drawn once in his last three games there.

Predicted XI and Score:

Predicted XI:

The team has to be different from the Atletico game. I do expect David de Gea to keep kicking the ball at the opposition in the net then make a great save to shadow his limitations. Dalot or Wan-Bissaka has to come in at fullback. It honestly made no sense playing Lindelof there when there were clear options. Wan-Bissaka has played well in the last two games and I would expect him to start. At the back, Lindelof could return to the centre back position along with Maguire while Shaw takes a rest over Telles who impressed in Madrid.

In midfield, I would like to see Pogba and Matic. Pogba and Fred were totally ineffectual against a side who sat back and let United try and break them down. Fred is only suitable in the pivot with Matic or McTominay and Matic came on and looked very solid against Atletico. I would save Fred for the derby.

In attack, the wings should have Sancho and Elanga between Fernandes at 10. I don’t know what’s happened to Rashford but after that decision to hit the long shot from 35 yards instead of pass the ball, it seems he’s really struggling for form and confidence at the moment. If we are 2-0 up against Watford and cruising, bring him on and let him run at the Watford team. It may be what he needs and may get him back into it again. Unfortunately, we don’t and won’t have that luxury with Ronaldo. He’s not in good form at all but with no other real options upfront, we don’t have a choice but play him until he scores. Not an ideal scenario.

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; Matic, Pogba; Sancho, Fernandes, Elanga; Ronaldo

Predicted Score:

I expect United to win well with the current form Watford are in. United have to amend the errors from midweek because Watford will sit back and play for counters. They have quick forwards and will get players in the box when needed. Roy Hodgson is a clever man and will know where the weaknesses are in the United squad. United can’t cruise through this, they have to be at their best and get some early goals in before they can settle in the game. I can see it happening but I think there could be a twist if the team aren’t switched on.

United to win 3-0

Author: Arjun Handa

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