Manchester United vs. Watford, Saturday 30th March, 15:00
Our form has taken a dent with consecutive defeats for the first time since mid-December, with these only the second and third losses under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as the other came against PSG. However, both of these results came on the road and domestically, we’ve won five of seven unbeaten home games since the Norwegian arrived in the dugout.
Having scored at least twice in all but one of these – versus title-chasing Liverpool – we ought to enjoy some success going forwards against a side that have struggled when encountering the ‘Big Six’ this term.
Indeed, the Hornets have lost their last two road trips 5-0 and 3-1 at Anfield and the Etihad respectively, bringing them up to 13 defeats on the bounce when traveling to the ‘Big Six’ since February 2017.
Watford have switched back to playing with two up top this season and the move from Javi Gracia has been a sensible one that plays to their strengths.
The narrow 4-2-2-2 formation with the double 6 allows them to make the best use of physically imposing pair Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure in the middle, while they’ve returned to playing a greater number of long passes with the direct approach benefiting from Troy Deeney’s aerial ability, as well as the pace in behind of either Gerard Deulofeu or Andre Gray.
With full-backs who can get forward to provide some width and put crosses into the box, while the wingers are often seen tucking inside so as not to get overrun in the centre, this is a balanced team and Gracia has to take the plaudits for their position in the table as a consequence.
Solskjaer might have hoped that the international break would allow players time to recuperate ahead of the run-in, but he’s seen various first team players pick up knocks and withdraw from their national squads.
Most worryingly, the attack has been hit hard with Marcus Rashford (ankle) and Anthony Martial (knee) being joined by Romelu Lukaku (foot) in the treatment room. Alexis Sanchez would have been given an umpteenth chance to resurrect his United career, but he is definitely out having limped off against Southampton with suspected knee ligament damage.
Solskjaer won’t want to risk Jesse Lingard after his hamstring pinged on an early return last time, and so depending on the fitness of Rashford and Martial, academy graduates Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong should be in line once more for further opportunities.
Given Watford’s dismal record against ‘Big Six’ sides, we’re pretty confident of the win. However, the Hornets do usually make it onto the scoreboard, failing to net in just one of their last seven outings and just three of 10 against ‘Big Six’ teams across all competitions this season, despite poor results.
Three of our four players that have registered double figures for goals this season are all doubtful, with the remaining man standing second-top scorer Paul Pogba, and so we like the enhanced odds for him to score, us to win and both teams to find the net.
*all odds are subject to change