Praise the footballing gods, for domestic action is about to return. Manchester United will look to bounce off the international break with a win away at Premier League newcomers Watford in Saturday's early kickoff -- though that may well be easier said than done. Louis van Gaal's men haven't conceded a league goal since a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal back in early October, though they've found scoring a rather tougher task.
Meanwhile, the Hornets may well have only won promotion last season, but Quique Sánchez Flores' team are a miserly bunch. They've conceded only 12 times in as many league games, which is a defensive record as good as anyone's outside of the current top five. But if United can take heart from anything, it's the history books: they've won their last eight games against the Hornets, in a run that stretches back to 1987.
For United, the long-term injured Luke Shaw is joined on the sidelines by Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia. Marcos Rojo may well not play after a long journey back from international duty in South America, with Matteo Darmian likely to make his return to United's starting lineup. Marouane Fellaini, Anthony Martial, and Wayne Rooney are all out, leaving things looking extremely bare up top. James Wilson is available but not fit for a full match, meaning Memphis Depay could well be given a chance as a centre-forward.
Watford are only certainly missing defender Joel Ekstrand, though summer signing Jurado is a doubt.
Quique Flores sports a fashionable beard and wears canvas trainers, but don't be fooled: the man knows how to organise a defence. He's arguably the guy that kickstarted Atlético Madrid's meteoric rise, and he's also enjoyed success at home with Valencia.
At Watford, the Spanish coach has turned a slightly surreal bunch of Football League journeymen and exotic imports into an extremely well-drilled unit, alternating between a 4-2-3-1 and the good old two banks-of-four of a 4-4-2. It's helped them up to 11th place in the table, already eight points clear of the bottom three.
As we saw in the game against West Brom before the international break, United still have big problems when it comes to breaking down a deep and determined defence, and that could well prove to be the case again at Vicarage Road. There's the possibility Watford will press a little higher than the Baggies did, which has generally been the case so far this season, but Flores could well change his approach against a top side.
All the while, United will have to be wary of the Hornets' threat on the counter-attack. They're an interesting team with plenty of attacking options, capable of playing tidy intricate football as well as a rather more industrial long-ball game. The two key dangermen are Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, who have struck up a fine combination in attack. The former is currently second only to Jamie Vardy in the Premier League's scoring charts, and matches a towering presence with a deadly accuracy. How we'd love to see him in a United shirt ...
Watford (4-4-2): Heurelho Gomes; Allan Nyom, Craig Cathcart, Miguel Britos, Nathan Aké; Étienne Capoue, Ben Watson, Almen Abdi, Ikechi Anya; Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Ashley Young; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin; Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard; Memphis Depay.