GW28: Manchester United v Watford – Preview
Posted by Ryan Smith | Published on March 1, 2016
Match day 28 sees The Hornets and The Red Devils go head-to-head again. The reverse fixture at Vicarage Road finished with a 2-1 victory in favour of Man United as a late Troy Deeney own goal saw Manchester United run out winners and take all 3 points from The Vic. A draw would have probably been a fair result given that Watford put up a much better fight in the second half compared to what they did in the first half. Eventually though, United showed why they are still one of the top sides in England with their ‘never say die’ mentality which ultimately got them the win that day.
Memphis opened the scoring early on after a terrific cross from Ander Hererra split The Hornets two central defenders in Craig Cathcart and Miguel Britos allowing the Dutchman to get a free volley away on goal. Watford perhaps showed a little too much respect to Man United in the first half by allowing them to have control the game through a lot of the possession and time on the ball. Something needed to change. It was no surprise then, that Watford looked a completely different team in the second half. The players pressed more and you could tell the team were playing with a lot more freedom. Odion Ighalo would win a late penalty after being bought down in the box by Marcos Rojo which captain Troy Deeney took and converted in front of the Vicarage Road end. Celebrations from the home crowd were cut short moments later however, after a shot from Jesse Lingard was fumbled by Heurelho Gomes, it fell to the experienced German holding midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger who fired the ball back towards the goal and Troy Deeney unfortunately turned it into his own net. Replays showed that if Deeney hadn’t touched the ball, Gomes may have had a chance to claw the ball away again. Heartbreak for Watford right at the death.
Form wise, how do Man United come into game week 28? Well, they’ve won 3 of their last 5 games in all competitions. Firstly, a 3-0 away win in the FA Cup Fifth Round against Shrewsbury Town. Goals from Chris Smalling, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard were enough to send The Reds through to the next round. The Red Devils then overturned a shock 2-1 defeat against FC Midtjylland in Denmark with a 5-1 win at Old Trafford (6-3 final score on aggregate) in the Europa League Round of 32 stage. Finally, a 3-2 home win against Arsenal last weekend was enough to put United into 5th position in the league, a point clear of West Ham in 6th; 3 points behind local rivals Manchester City in 4th.
The Hornets come into this game losing only once in their last 5 games in all competitions, that loss coming at White Hart Lane in a 1-0 defeat to an inform Spurs side. Positive results coming in the league against the likes of Chelsea and Crystal Palace will give both the Watford players and fans a huge boost.. Goals have been at a premium for Watford as of late, scoring only 3 goals in those 5 games, however have had enough defensively to keep themselves out of any real danger of losing the games – you get the feeling that that defence will be put to the test against a Manchester United side finding a patch of form.
Watford have been relatively lucky in terms of avoiding injuries to their key players, however the same can’t be said about United. Just today, Donald Love was confirmed as Van Gaal’s 17th player to be out with injury. The Red Devils will be without: Matteo Darmian (shoulder), Ashley Young (groin), Phil Jones (ankle), Wayne Rooney (knee), Luke Shaw (broken leg), Antionio Valencia (foot), Cameron Borthwick-Jackson has sustained a knock, Marouane Fellaini (hamstring), Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee) and Anthony Martial (hamstring) just to name a few.
Watford will be without creative playmaker Jose Manuel Jurado for a second game in a row after he picked up a calf injury a few weeks ago. Despite concerns, Etienne Capoue should be fit for the fixture after being taken off last Saturday in a 0-0 draw against AFC Bournemouth. Captain Troy Deeney also took a minor knock against The Cherries, however managed to see out the full 90 minutes so should be available for selection tomorrow night.
Both teams have players that could win the game in a heartbeat, however these two are the ones I consider the ‘key players’ for both teams respectively.
Who’d have thought that in a team with the likes of David de Gea and Juan Mata on the team sheet, that 18-year-old Marcus Rashford would be one of the key players to look out for in tomorrows fixture? The youngster has 5 goals in his last two appearances, 3 of those coming in against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League to give the Englishman his first ever senior hat-trick. He then netted 2 goals and got himself a credible assist for Ander Herrera’s goal against a very strong Arsenal team on Sunday to put Van Gaal’s men in 5th position. He’s proven he can get goals on the European stage and also against big teams in the Premier League like Arsenal. The Watford back-line will have to keep a close eye on him at all times in the game, proving he starts of course.
Onto Watford’s player to watch now, and you’ll be surprised I’m sure that I’m not including the likes of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. Instead, I’m going to choose one of Watford’s most underrated players this season in Ben Watson. The partnership he has formed with Etienne Capoue in the centre of Watford’s midfield is something I feel has gone massively overlooked by pundits up and down the country. The Englishman has made the likes of Jordan Henderson and Dimitri Payet almost invisible in games against Liverpool and West Ham respectively – which is a massive achievement in itself. He’ll be in for a busy night against quality players in Juan Mata and Memphis and all the pace and creativity United possess on the attack. If he puts in his usual shift he’ll definitely be one to watch.