I have to be honest: I was VERY relieved that United finally managed to get a game-winner against Brighton on Saturday, because we now have what I consider to be three VERY, very difficult games in a row in the Premier League, and a victory against a very spirited Seagulls team was essential if we continue to harbor hopes of catching our ‘noisy neighbours’ before next May.
This evening we make the trip to Vicarage Road to face a Watford side that are absolutely flying right now. Former Hull City boss Marco Silva has come in and really got his charges firing, none more so than Brazilian playmaker Richarlison, who has taken to the English game like a duck to water… the boy has been excellent. The Hornets easily swatted Newcastle United aside at St. James’ Park at the weekend, running out 3-0 victors, and shared the goals around too. Former Burnley hitman Andre Gray has had a quiet start to his Watford career, but he managed to grab a goal against the Geordies too.
United come into the game with the manager having almost a full squad of players to select his team from (only Carrick, Jones and Bailly are now injury doubts), though it continues to be the form and fitness of midfield lynchpin Paul Pogba which is the essential ingredient to the team’s rhythm.
With that in mind, here is my team selection for this game: (4-4-1-1)
GK: David de Gea – David secured another clean sheet on Saturday, with only a couple of routine saves to make against Brighton, but I expect him to be a lot busier this evening – thankfully he is in top form.
RB: Antonio Valencia – Tony remains the automatic choice for the right-back shirt, and he’ll have his hands full, looking after Richarlison. Hopefully, he can still get forward to support our attacks too.
LB: Ashley Young – Ash chipped in with the winning goal (albeit through a wicked deflection!) against Brighton, and although he didn’t look comfortable defending against Anthony Knockaert for periods in the 1st half, he is, for now, the best option we have at left-back, since Jose clearly doesn’t trust Luke Shaw.
CBs: Victor Lindelof & Marcos Rojo – with Phil Jones and Eric Bailly unlikely to be recovered enough from recent knocks to start this game, I’d expect Victor Lindelof to partner Rojo against Watford. Victor is starting to grow into his role at United, and was much more assured against the Seagulls. Smalling doesn’t convince me at all, so I’d have Marcos alongside the big Swede at the back, where Andre Gray will need to be well marshalled.
CMs: Nemanja Matic & Paul Pogba – I was delighted to see Paul make his return last week against Newcastle United; we’ve missed his presence and ingenuity greatly over the past few months, and for me, our entire season rests upon his form and fitness. Alongside the giant Serb, we have a midfield base that is the envy of most sides in Europe never mind England, and I’d hope they can dictate the game against the likes of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Tom Cleverley and Will Hughes.
RM: Juan Mata – the little man was disappointingly off-form on Saturday, but I’d still prefer him to start this game than the likes of Lingard as I feel his creativity and clever movement will give Watford problems. He will also be more positionally aware so he can help Valencia deal with the marauding Marvin Zeegelaar.
CM(A): Marcus Rashford- I’d give Marcus a chance to play the no. 10 role in behind Lukaku; with his direct running and pace, he is likely to draw fouls from the Hornets’ defenders, who like to ‘dive into’ challenges…
LM: Anthony Martial – as with Rashford, I think Tony can really cause problems for Adrian Mariappa with his pace and trickery on the ball. My only slight misgiving is his work-rate back to help Young when we don’t have possession, but in his current form, he is undroppable.
CF: Romelu Lukaku– the big man had a quiet day against Brighton, but will relish the battle he’ll get from the likes of Christian Kabasele and Miguel Britos. As ever, if we can get some decent supply into him, Romelu will give Hector Gomes plenty to worry about.
BENCH: Romero, Herrera, Mkhitaryan, Blind, Fellaini, Smalling, Ibrahimović.
I expect this to be a very, very difficult game. Marco Silva is a wily operator, knowing how to set his team up to be dangerous on the counter-attack, which they do with pace and numbers. We will need to be very precise in possession, and patiently probe for the openings that will give us opportunities to grab a couple of goals. Watford, for all their excellent attacking play, have conceded more goals than anyone in the top half of the table to date, and with hugely important fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester City coming up next, we simply MUST emerge from Vicarage Road with maximum points…but that won’t be an easy task. It’s time for the lads to ‘earn their corn’!