Manchester United host relegation battling Watford this weekend as both teams look to improve their performances and results in a bid to achieve their goals at the end of the campaign. Having secured a well-deserved three points against Leeds last weekend, the hosts will be keen on finding consistent victories in hopes of qualifying for Champions League football next season. On the other hand, having taken only four points from their last five league outings, the Hornets will be looking to cause an upset on Saturday.
A disappointing mid-week outing in Europe for United is likely to serve as a confidence booster for the visitors this weekend. With only two points separating the Red Devils and sixth-placed West Ham, the hosts will be keen on avoiding an upset and securing a comfortable three points against Watford.
Meanwhile, languishing second from bottom, Watford will be looking to rise from the ashes over the remainder of the season. With only four points separating them and seventeenth-placed Newcastle United, the Hornets will be keen on salvaging a favourable result when they travel to Old Trafford on Saturday. Moreover, heading into a challenging run of fixtures, a point against United could certainly serve as a morale-booster moving forward.
WHEN & WHERE?
Venue: Old Trafford.
Date: Saturday, 26th of February 2022.
Time: Kick-off at 15:00 BST.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Assistants: Adrian Holmes, Simon Beck.
Fourth official: Dean Whitestone.
VAR: Lee Mason.
Assistant VAR: Timothy Wood.
Edinson Cavani remains unlikely to feature for United owing to his ongoing groin issue, while Scott McTominay emerges as a doubt for the fixture, having missed out on the trip to Madrid earlier this week due to illness.
Nemanja Matic and Alex Telles are likely to push for a starting spot as Rangnick looks for sustained balance within the line-up. Anthony Elanga too is expected to displace Marcus Rashford following his apathetic mid-week performance against Atletico. Ralf Rangnick is likely to field his strongest XI in hopes of securing a comprehensive three points on Saturday.
Peter Etebo and Nicolas Nkoulou are likely to miss out as they build on their match fitness, while Joao Pedro Juraj Kucka could find themselves in contention provided they pass their fitness tests ahead of the fixture.
Edo Kayembe could serve as a possible replacement in midfield after Tom Cleverley, and Joshua King found themselves substituted following a poor display against Crystal Palace last weekend. Roy Hodgson could make several changes to the line-up in hopes of salvaging a result on Saturday.
With both teams struggling to shake off their inadequacies, Saturday’s tie could culminate into an even match-up for both sides. Although the hosts retain a comparatively opulent set of players, recent inconsistencies suggest that United could certainly fail to capitalize on Watford’s poor run of results heading into the fixture. On the other hand, having struggled for victories throughout the campaign, a game at Old Trafford could certainly catalyse the Hornets into producing a compelling display on Saturday.
While United struggled to gain control and keep a clean sheet against Atletico, the weekend’s fixture serves as a golden opportunity for the team to redeem themselves moving forward. Given the visitors’ tendency to concede goals, the hosts are likely to utilise the flanks to devastating effect whilst emphasizing seizing control of the midfield this Saturday. Moreover, with Watford expected to employ a compact and deep defensive line, Rangnick will look to provide adequate attacking support from the midfield whilst working on negating the frequency of counter-attacks from the oppositions throughout the ninety minutes.
Meanwhile, the Hornets will be keen on exploiting the home side’s tendency in failing to maintain control for most of the ninety minutes. With the hosts having kept only two clean sheets in their last five league outings, Watford will be looking to take advantage of their unconvincing midfield set-up whilst focusing on quick transitions to supplement their attackers on Saturday. With pace and power in their frontline, the visitors will be looking to seek advantage of United’s inconsistent backline alongside carrying out their defensive duties diligently.
PAUL POGBA – MANCHESTER UNITED
Having been the team’s most impressive performer in recent weeks, Pogba will be expected to run the show from midfield on Saturday. Although having displayed an underwhelming performance against Atletico, the Frenchman’s imposition combined with his technical attributes will be key to the team’s goal-creation opportunities against Watford.
With the team in need of his contributions and presence in the midfield, Pogba will be looking to deliver a compelling performance on Saturday.
EMMANUEL DENNIS – WATFORD
A significant part of Watford’s attacking prowess, Dennis will be looking to capitalize on United’s defensive vulnerability on Saturday. The striker’s pace and movement could certainly cause problems for United’s centre-backs whilst his ability to find the net could help the visitors in securing a surprising result this weekend.
Manchester United (4-3-3) – David De Gea; Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles; Fred, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes; Anthony Elanga, Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Watford (4-3-3) – Ben Foster; Kiko Femenia, Craig Cathcart, Samir Santos, Hassane Kamara; Moussa Sissoko, Imran Louza, Edo Kayembe; Ismaila Sarr, Emmanuel Dennis, Joshua King.