As the Premier League draws to a close, Manchester United welcome Watford for the final game of 2017/18 as they look to finish with more than 80 points on board for the first time since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
In the end, it has been a drawn-out season of nothingness for United in the Premier League – particularly in the last four weeks, where the club failed to kick on to get as many points as they can. Mourinho’s men have taken their eye off the ball – with defeats to West Brom and Brighton and a tepid draw against West Ham United depriving the team of any real momentum ahead of their biggest game of the season – the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 19. Yet, there are still some things to play for in the final game of the campaign – where 3 points could see them hit the 80-point mark for the first time in five years.
But Sunday will be all about the departing Michael Carrick – the unassuming number 16 who played a vital role in United’s title-winning teams of 2008, 2009, 2011 and more recently 2013 – when he was awarded the Player’s Player of the Year award for his outstanding contribution on the pitch.
From next season, however, his work will benefit players off the pitch – as the 36-year old will join the coaching staff of United – and as several players in the first team squad would attest – Manchester United will be better with an experienced and level-headed individual like Michael Carrick involved in some capacity at the club than not.
Watford have been a mixed bag this campaign. After a decent start to the season, they failed to put together good results (only 3 wins between game-weeks 9 and 25) and as a consequence, they went through a period of adjusting to new ideas with the new manager coming in, right in the middle of the season to shake things up at the club.
The Hornets did survive in the end without much of a struggle and could still finish as high as 10th, provided they beat Man United away from home and the other results fall their way. They will go into this game on the back of a home win against Newcastle – their first in the last eight fixtures.
For the Red Devils, forward Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini will miss the last league game of the season through injury while veteran midfielder Michael Carrick is set to make his final appearance in a red shirt.
Richarlison and Gerard Deulofeu will hope for recalls after being left out of the starting XI for their last match. Watford could be without nine players for the trip to Old Trafford.
- Manchester United have won 13 of their last 14 meetings with Watford in all competitions, losing only at Vicarage Road in September 2016.
- Troy Deeney has scored three PL goals against Man Utd, all from the penalty spot. Only Steven Gerrard, with four, has scored more spot-kicks against the Red Devils in the competition.
- The Red Devils have won more final fixtures in a Premier League campaign than any other side, with 17. They have only finished with a loss twice, against Tottenham Hotspur in 2001 and West Ham United in 2007.
Michael Carrick – Manchester United
He needs no introduction. Carrick has had a remarkable career over the years at United – from playing a supporting role in midfield to the likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, he really came into his own in 2012/13 as he, alongside Robin van Persie and David De Gea were instrumental in United winning the Premier League for a record 20th time.
His intelligence and the natural ability to read the game and anticipate opposition patterns of play is an asset to any successful team but on Sunday – will serve as a reminder as to what United are going to have to replace if they are to get back to the very top of the table.
Etienne Capoue – Watford
Capoue, after the heights he hit last season, especially early on in the season – has failed to light up Vicarage Road in 2017/18. The midfielder has made 18 starts (23 apps) in the Premier League – with a solitary goal to his name. His partner Doucoure has stolen the limelight in the centre of the park – yet Capoue, on his day can be dangerous with his late runs into the box – the like of which he scored from in 2016/17 at home against Mourinho’s United.
Carrick to score perhaps? Would not rule that out.
Manchester United 2-0 Watford