Manchester United host Watford on Saturday and it is important they return to winning ways at Old Trafford as they have dropped too many points at home this season. Their main problem is that they aren’t killing matches off and they have collected too many draws. The Premier League is tight at the top this season and draws against teams outside of the top six are no good, especially at home. This is why Manchester United aren’t currently in the top four, despite playing some of the best attacking football in the division.
Jose Mourinho will be confident that his side can go on to qualify for the Champions League this season as they have been unlucky at times during the first 24 matches, but they can’t afford many more slip ups in matches such as these. They are now two points off of the top four and given the recent drop-off from both Liverpool and Arsenal, there are reasons for optimism at Old Trafford. One reason for concern is that this will be United’s final league match until March, which means that the gap to the top four will grow before that date. It is much better to have points on the board than matches in hand and it will be interesting to see how Mourinho deals with that.
Watford won’t have the pressure on them this weekend and they have already shown in recent weeks that they can defeat a top six side away from home. They managed to beat Arsenal at the end of last month and will have to use that to motivate them this weekend. The Hornets are currently in the top ten and will be able to play with confidence after back-to-back wins in their last two matches. January was a good month for the club as they made some good additions, including M’Baye Niang and they will prove to be difficult opponents for United this weekend.
United will be keen to avenge their 3-1 loss at Vicarage Road earlier in the season. Etienne Capoue, Camilo Zuniga and Troy Deeney were the scorers for Watford on that day, with Marcus Rashford netting for the visitors. Meanwhile, in this fixture last season, Manchester United took the three points, thanks to a goal from Juan Mata.
Wayne Rooney, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are all doubts for this weekend. Timothy Fosu-Mensah is also struggling with a knock, but he is unlikely to feature regardless of his availability.
Christian Kabasele, Costel Pantilimon and Nordin Amrabat are all facing battles to be fit for this weekend, while Roberto Pereyra will be missing with a knee injury.
Manchester United have had 146 shots on target this season, which is already higher than their total from the whole of last season, but their conversion rate remains an issue.
Watford are now unbeaten in their last four league matches, which is their best run since October.
The former Borussia Dortmund attacker initially struggled in the Premier League and was rarely seen in United’s match-day squads at the beginning of the season, but he has now adjusted to English football and has emerged as one of his side’s most dangerous attacking players. It has underlined his impressive mentality as he didn’t sulk and instead focused on impressing on the training pitch. This is the kind of character that United need as they attempt to become a dominant force once again. He has the pace and dynamism that other attackers in the squad lack and that is why he is proving to be such a difficult player to contain. The Armenian has scored three goals and contributed one assist this season, but I’d expect him to push on after a man-of-the-match performance against Leicester City. His intelligent movement combined with his eye for a pass in the final third makes him difficult to contain, while the addition of goals to his game make him the perfect attacker. Watford have kept only one clean sheet in their last 14 Premier League matches, therefore it is a match that Mkhitaryan would expect to cause problems in.
The AC Milan loanee has made an immediate impact after moving to the Premier League and he looks like a player that has a future at a higher level than Watford. During his last match, he produced an expertly weighted cross for Troy Deeney, before scoring with an excellent header himself. There were clear signs of his technical ability and he will be one of the main threats for Manchester United this weekend. He is used to playing in large stadiums and the occasion won’t get the better of him. Niang had a positive debut at the Emirates Stadium and currently has a 100% record in English football. It has only been two matches, but it underlines the impact that he has had on the team. AC Milan supporters would have been disappointed to have lost him, but he now has an opportunity to show his quality in the Premier League and he appears deadset on taking it. If he continues to perform as he has in his first two matches, it will be difficult for Watford to make the move permanent as bigger clubs will become interested.
Manchester United must win this weekend as they have dropped too many points at home and it is damaging their Champions League hopes. Watford are a side in good form and have players to cause damage on the counter-attack. United must be aware, but they should have enough to take the three points on Saturday. They finally displayed end product against Leicester City and they need to show that consistently. I think that will improve over the coming weeks and they can start climbing the table.