Watford could make life very difficult for Man United at Vicarage Road on Sunday. Walter Mazzarri has done well to steer the Hornets through a horrible set of opening fixtures, and the Red Devils may need to be patient against wily counter-attacking opposition.
Worst over for Watford?
Considering their fixtures Watford can be happy with a haul of four points from their opening four games. They’ve already played Arsenal and Chelsea, and went away to West Ham and Southampton.
United at home caps a difficult start, and they’ll be pleased they’ve been able to take the pressure off this fixture by sealing their first win last week.
Normally you would predict a simple away victory, but there’s enough about Watford to make you wonder.
Strong against the Big Sides
Because when the Hornets played Chelsea they led for most of the match until Diego Costa, who shouldn’t even have been on the pitch, stole the game for the Blues late on.
Then against Arsenal Cech was man of the match, pulling off a series of reaction saves to stop Watford from getting back into the game.
With a bit more luck Mazzarri’s side could have got at least a point in each of those matches.
Duo Doing Damage
After a barren run from the back end of the last season, Ighalo and Deeney were back in the goals against West Ham. If the partnership can perform to its potential it has the pace, strength and goalscoring instincts to hurt the best defences.
Deeney’s goal in particular showed wonderful precision, taking it past Adrián and lofting it into the top corner.
Bailly and Blind will have to be more switched-on than they were against City if they want to keep a clean sheet.
Watford are a sure bet to sit back and let their five-man defence crowd United out. They’re happiest without the ball, posting the fourth-lowest possession percentage in the league.
But a fun development is the way this defensive base has given Étienne Capoue licence to get forward. The midfielder has rediscovered the knack for goalscoring he had at Toulouse, and now has three in four.
Exciting New Recruits
Giampaolo Pozzo’s famed international scouting network has done wonders for Watford, bringing in unheralded players like Ighalo.
But this summer the Hornets have been more aggressive in the market, picking up established players like Janmaat from Newcastle and Pereyra from Juventus. Both have bolstered the first team and will make them an even sterner test than last season.
Pereyra already has a goal and assist after just one start and is the source of creative inspiration that Mazzarri’s side was lacking in their August fixtures.
With lightning pace up front in the form of Ighalo and Deeney, United are going to need to beware of sending too many players forward. Pereyra, the link player, matches pace with the ability to find the strikers with clever passes.
Also heartening for Watford is that they clawed back a two-goal deficit at West Ham. It means that their game-plan won’t be in tatters if they go a goal down on Sunday.
Watford Predicted Lineup
Gomes; Janmaat, Cathcart, Kaboul, Britos, Holebas, Pereyra, Behrami, Capoue; Deeney, Ighalo
Test of Organisation
Mourinho has chosen to use his whole squad, bringing in Rashford and co. for Thursday’s trip to Rotterdam.
He’ll have to keep an eye on his players’ fitness levels, following a European away trip with a Premier League fixture less than three days later.
The Portuguese coach has already claimed that United’s Europa League commitments could hurt their title push, and he’ll need to use all his experience to keep the team competitive on all fronts.
One man who didn’t make the trip to the Netherlands was Wayne Rooney, who looked out of sorts in the defeat to Man City last weekend.
Mourinho will be banking on him to come back stronger against Watford. He’ll be joined by the other first-teamers who were rested against Feyenoord, like Valencia, Shaw and possibly Jesse Lingard.
But Mkhitaryan might be out of the frame after getting injured in the week.
Pain Predicted for Pogba?
After just three matches it would be silly to get on the back of the French record signing. But like it or not, Pogba’s £89m fee invites extra scrutiny, and United’s detractors will seize on any sign of weakness.
Ibrahimovic this week told the French network SFR Sport that his naysayers “will swallow all the words they have said about him”, but the longer Pogba goes without goals, the more people will talk.
Never mind that a midfielder doesn’t even need to score goals to be effective.
Ibra Favourite for Golden Boot?
The Sweden forward is in outrageous form, and seems to age like a fine wine. He’ll be thumbing his nose at those who doubted he’d adapt to English football.
If Mourinho manages him carefully Ibra could be a good bet for top-scorer in the league this season. He’s made the perfect start, scoring a goal a game so far.
Manchester United Predicted Teamsheet
De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Fellaini, Pogba; Mata, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimovic
When Will Watford vs Manchester United Take Place?
The match kicks off at Vicarage Road at 12:00 BST on Sunday 18 September. Michael Oliver will referee. Ever wondered how much a Premier League referee earns?
Watford vs Manchester United Match Prediction
If Watford’s opening fixtures are anything to go by, they’ve got enough to make Manchester United sweat on Sunday. They’re a defensive team, but we’ve seen against Arsenal and West Ham, that if they go behind they will create opportunities to get back in the match.
But Mourinho won’t allow United to drop points again. It won’t be an easy afternoon, and it could be a cautious affair, but the Red Devils should sneak a win.
Put your money on a dogged 0-1 win for Mourinho’s men.