Everything you need to know ahead of the Red Devils’ Premier League encounter at Old Trafford on Saturday
Manchester United’s convincing win over Leicester City last time out has put them right back in the Champions League picture and victory over Watford at Old Trafford on Saturday is key to keeping up the pressure on those teams currently sat ahead of them in the Premier League table.
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Jose Mourinho has been damning of the fixture schedule of late, with his club’s progress in the Europa League, EFL Cup and FA Cup combining to fill the majority of midweeks remaining in 2016-17, but the five free days United have had since their Henrikh Mkhitaryan-inspired success at the King Power Stadium can only help him to prepare his side for the visit of Walter Mazzarri’s men.
With constant questions relating to one exclusion or another, Mourinho may well find it to be a blessing that he has so many players jostling for a shirt given that United now face another busy period in their season upon the resumption of the Europa League and with FA Cup and EFL Cup dates taking up the rest of the calendar in February.
MAN UTD INJURIES
Phil Jones limped out of the recent 0-0 draw with Hull City and missed the victory over Leicester as a result but could be back in contention for the Hornets’ visit to M16. Marcos Rojo didn’t emerge for the second half at the King Power after picking up a knock, meaning he could find himself out of Saturday’s fixture.
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Eric Bailly’s successful return in his first game back from Africa Cup of Nations duty gives Mourinho plenty of options in defence, and, even though Daley Blind was underwhelming when replacing Rojo at Leicester, Mourinho still has the likes of Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian available to slot in at left-back if needed.
Wayne Rooney was absent from the 3-0 win last time out due to illness, but he has been back in training this week and is expected to be a part of the squad. However, United’s success in his absence hardly strengthened his claim for a starting shirt in either the short or long term.
MAN UTD SUSPENSIONS
Paul Pogba collected his eighth domestic booking of the season at Leicester, making him the closest thing United have to a suspension concern. The Frenchman will be banned for one match in the event that he picks up two further yellow cards before the next amnesty date of April 9.
Like United, Watford are free of suspension worries with Jose Holebas having recently returned from a two-match ban.
MAN UTD POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP
Mourinho has a mountain of options available to him as he looks to prepare his squad for a congested couple of weeks which includes both legs of the Europa League tie with Saint-Etienne, an FA Cup trip to Blackburn Rovers and the EFL Cup final against Southampton.
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He could decide to select a similar line-up to the one which swept Leicester aside, with Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial among the candidates to step up should he shuffle the pack slightly. In the event that Marcos Rojo is not passed fit, Shaw could be the first man Mourinho turns to after Daley Blind failed to convince at Leicester. Meanwhile Martial has suffered a high-profile exclusion of late but could be given the opportunity to stake a claim for a spot in the Europa League matchday squad ahead of Thursday’s first leg.
Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney are among those pushing for a spot, but Carrick might well be held back for a start in midweek while Rooney has seen his stock crash in recent weeks and may be left on the outside looking in after missing the 3-0 win last weekend.
WATFORD TEAM NEWS
Walter Mazzarri has led Watford to back-to-back 2-1 victories over Arsenal and Burnley, lifting spirits in Hertfordshire after a seven-game run without a win and a shock FA Cup exit to League One side Millwall.
The acquisition of Milan’s M’baye Niang on loan has captured the imagination in Watford, while Troy Deeney remains their lynchpin having netted in three consecutive games as the Hornets have bounced back to form.
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With those two victories Watford have moved back into the top half of the table and, with 30 points already under their belts, they will be confident of reaching their primary target for the season in clinching Premier League safety with something to spare. They may have lost Odion Ighalo to Changchun Yatai in January but they remain a difficult outfit to negotiate in the top flight.
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
Manchester United have never lost a home league game against the Hornets (W7 D2 L0), winning all three against them in the Premier League.
Watford could become just the ninth team in Premier League history to record a double over Man Utd in a season, following Arsenal (three times), Blackburn, Chelsea (three times), Everton, Liverpool (four times), Man City (three times), Swansea and West Ham.
Troy Deeney has scored two Premier League goals against the Red Devils, both penalties in the last five minutes of matches. However, he also scored a 90th minute own-goal to gift Manchester United victory in November 2015.
Manchester United are on their longest Premier League unbeaten run since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 (15 games – W8 D7 L0).
Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have created 27 chances for one another in the Premier League this season, with Pogba supplying three assists for the Swede – the most of any duo.
TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME
United finish their February campaign in the Premier League away from the glare of the TV cameras due to the game being played in the protected Saturday 3pm slot.
Bobby Madley takes charge of the fixture, having last refereed at Old Trafford in December’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham which sparked a six-game winning run for United.