Manchester United vs Watford
Venue: Old Trafford
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Manchester United will be looking to inaugurate the Solskjaer era with a win this weekend when they host Watford at Old Trafford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was confirmed as the new permanent manager of Manchester United after a phenomenal run of results since he took over as interim manager last December. Solskjaer has won 10 of his 13 Premier League games in charge and his side are now firmly in contention for a Champions League spot despite looking miles off the race towards the end of Jose Mourinho’s tenure. This record, combined with a huge win over PSG in the Champions League and the attacking nature of the side under his guidance, has seen the rejuvenation of a side that looked lost for much of last year.
A win this weekend will see United maintain their advantage over Chelsea at the very least and if results go their way, could see them go a point ahead of Arsenal into fourth. Every point is vital at this stage and with the race for top four hotting up, this is a must-win fixture for Solskjaer’s men.
As for Watford, they will be looking to bounce back after a 3-1 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City earlier in the month. The Hornets currently sit 8th in the table one point ahead of West Ham but with a game in hand and are firmly in contention for 7th place and ‘the best of the rest’ label.
Despite losses to titles contenders Liverpool and Manchester City, recent wins over Leicester, Cardiff City and Everton will give Watford plenty to go on for Saturday’s fixture. All three points this weekend would see Watford create further distance between themselves and West Ham but could also see them challenging Wolves for 7th.
José Holebas is the only doubt for Watford this weekend as the Greek player is still recovering from an ankle injury. United will have to be on their toes though when dealing with Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney as the two have a combined 15 goals and 10 assists between them this season and could prove a serious test for United’s defence come Saturday.
Will Hughes, Abdoulaye Doucouré and Roberto Pereyra all look set to start this weekend and should test United’s midfield especially Doucouré who has an impressive six assist so far this season. Elsewhere, Adrian Mariappa and Craig Cathcart will be looking to shut out the likes of Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku to keep their side’s eighth clean sheet of the season.
United’s injury crisis rumbles on as they approach the critical stage of their season. Alexis Sanchez is due to miss out with a serious knee injury whilst there are major doubts over Lukaku, Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia. Marcus Rashford, Matic, Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly all face late fitness tests to see if they are fit for Saturday’s fixture.
United will look to get back to winning ways after defeat to Arsenal in their last Premier League fixture. Solskjaer will be hoping the likes of Rashford and Martial can hit the ground running after the international break so expect to see them lead the line with Lukaku if all are fit.
With the games coming thick and fast in the race for the top four and a Champions League quarter-final tie against Barcelona on the horizon, Solskjaer may also opt to give some more game time to youngsters like Scott McTominay, Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong.
Predicted Starting XIs
Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw; Fred, Matic, Pogba; Rashford, Lukaku, Martial
Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes, Capoue, Pereyra, Doucouré; Deulofeu, Deeney
Score Prediction: Manchester United 2 Watford 0
United will be wounded after defeats to Arsenal in the league and Wolves in the quarter-final of the FA Cup so I fully expect them to come out swinging on Saturday. Watford have had a very good season but United have a lot more to play for in these closing stages and should be galvanized by Solskjaer’s appointment as permanent manager. United should put in a convincing performance and come away with all three points.