Everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s match:
(1) Manchester United welcome Watford to Old Trafford after a pretty successful trip to Bruges. The Reds grabbed an invaluable away goal in Thursday’s 1-1 draw, putting themselves in excellent position to advance to the Europa League round-of-sixteen next week. Even better, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the opportunity to rest David De Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James, Bruno Fernandes, and Fred — with the latter two limited to a short run-out near the end.
(2) Before the Club Brugge match, Solskjaer dished out some injury updates. First, on Marcus Rashford:
I would hope Marcus is playing this season. It’ll just be touch-and-go towards the end. So, hopefully, we can go through and get through this tournament and prolong the season. It takes time. I’m not a doctor, but obviously I was hoping that he would recover quicker than it actually looks like he’s going to be out. Another few months, definitely.
(3) And, when asked about Paul Pogba, Ole didn’t sound particularly optimistic:
Paul has not been part of the team training yet, so it’ll depend on how he feels or when he feels ready to do that. He’s not anywhere near that yet.
(4) While those updates aren’t terribly encouraging, there was one small bit of good news this week: Scott McTominay is back in training. The 23-year-old has been sidelined with a knee ligament injury since Boxing Day and, while the Club Brugge match came too soon, he could yet force his way into the frame for Watford’s weekend visit.
Out of nowhere, United's squad strength has gone up a notch or two.— Red Devil Bible (@RedDevilBible) February 19, 2020
- Bailly return
- McTominay, Fosu-Mensah & Tuanzebe in training
- Matic return to form
- Bruno and Ighalo signings.
- Only Rashford and Pogba out now.
Hopefully everyone can stay fit so we can finish in top 4.
(5) Back in December, Manchester United traveled to Vicarage Road to take on rock-bottom Watford — and it was a complete disaster. The hosts beat back United 2-0 with second-half goals from Ismaila Sarr and Troy Deeney proving the difference. Heading into that match, Watford had been winless in five — but Nigel Pearson rallied his squad and pulled off a huge upset. Now, the Hornets are again winless in five... Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.
(6) Despite an uptick in form under Pearson, Watford still find themselves in 19th and facing relegation. But they’ve managed to whittle down the points gap to just one from safety and, coming off their winter break, Watford have had over two weeks to rest and prepare for this one. Last time out, they picked up a point at fellow strugglers Brighton.
(7) While there’s plenty of talent at Watford like Etienne Capoue and Gerard Deulofeu, the star of the show remains Abdoulaye Doucoure. But it doesn’t sound like he’ll be at Vicarage Road for very long. Doucoure made a name for himself in a holding midfield role, but has flourished since being pushed higher up the pitch by Pearson. He’s headed for a big move this summer.
“If a big club makes an interesting offer for me, the club will let me leave, easily. Clubs that play Champions League is the goal, but I don’t have a particular one in mind. I want to stay in the Premier League, that’s my main wish."— WD18 (@WD18fans) February 10, 2020
- Abdoulaye Doucouré [Canal]#watfordfc pic.twitter.com/tXXdn2uVoh
(8) Despite allowing a goal to Emmanuel Dennis on Thursday, Manchester United’s defense is on quite a roll. The Reds could make it five straight domestic clean sheets with another shutout on Sunday — and, considering Watford’s woes in front of goal, that’s quite possible. The Hornets have scored just 24 goals in 26 Premier League matches this season.
(9) Nigel Pearson on Watford’s survival chances:
I believe we can do it. I honestly think that. We’ve got a very good, realistic chance. We’ve got to be able to find a way of functioning as close to maximum as we can, even when not at our maximum. It’s a difficult thing to do, but that’s what we are trying to do.
(10) Not to be negative, but it would be just like this Manchester United group to impressively handle Chelsea on Monday only to allow Watford to do the double over them at the weekend. The Reds desperately need to get a grip on these matches against lower-table opposition if they hope to climb into fourth. And, with Spurs reeling from a crazy injury crisis, that door is still open.
#WatfordFC's boss Nigel Pearson is looking to become the fourth English manager to complete a Premier League double over #MUFC this weekend.— Watford StatZone (@watfordsz) February 19, 2020
The only other managers to do so are Glenn Hoddle, Alan Curbishley and Garry Monk. ⚽ #PL @PBDonoghue pic.twitter.com/7bfsAa8nPL
(11) Even with Rashford out for a while, the Manchester United attack seems in fine fettle. Anthony Martial scored his 14th goal of the season in Bruges on Thursday, Bruno Fernandes injects a ton of creativity (and lots of long range shots) whenever on the pitch, and Odion Ighalo has settled right in as an impact sub off the bench. Sunday should be a big one for Ighalo, as he suits up against his former team for the first time.