Watford will relish their shot at Manchester United
Jose Mourinho side still to find top gear
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday
Watford won’t still be third in the Premier League at the end of the season and Manchester United must surely be higher than tenth, but the Hornets are playing well enough to be worth support against Jose Mourinho’s men at Vicarage Road.
The international break came at the wrong time for Watford boss Javi Gracia, who had just seen his side make it four wins out of four with a superb come-from-behind triumph over Tottenham.
It leaves them starting the weekend trailing Liverpool and Chelsea only on goal difference while Mourinho’s misfiring United are grumbling and stumbling around in mid-division.
United should find their way in the top six while Watford are likely to be scrapping for seventh at best, more likely just a top-half finish. But given what we’ve seen over the first month of the campaign, those outcomes look a long way off.
Watford have been outstanding with a trio of wins over Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace going before a superb 2-1 win over Tottenham which taught them a lot.
For the best part of an hour against Spurs they stood off, showing far too much respect to Mauricio Pochettino’s team, and deservedly went behind.
At that point they flicked a switch, tackling harder, working harder, getting the ball forward faster and shifting the Spurs back four around. Excellent set-pieces enabled Troy Deeney and Craig Cathcart to head Watford in front and they comfortably held on.
That performance over the last half-hour has to be the template for Watford. They have aggressive players and they will need to be at their most rugged to dominate United’s powerful midfield while Deeney will love going shoulder to shoulder with whichever centre-backs Mourinho chooses to play.
United have failed to win five of their last nine away league games and they continue to be difficult to explain.
Their defeats at Brighton and at home to Tottenham were deserved and they were fortunate to beat Leicester in their opener. Victory at Burnley last time out was merited, although the Clarets were a million miles from Sean Dyche’s side of last season.
Alexis Sanchez, for once, had a good game, Marouane Fellaini was excellent and the threat from in-form Romelu Lukaku is obvious.
But they have conceded seven goals already and are giving up more than nine efforts on goal per game.
There are plenty of goals in the Premier League this season with 14 of the 20 teams averaging more than 2.5 per game. Among that number are Watford (3) and United (3.25) so the 21-20 that there are over 2.5 has to merit consideration.
Watford draw no bet
1pt 2-1 general
Over 2.5 goals
1pt 21-20 Betfair
Gerard Deulofeu is out with a hip injury. Tom Cleverley is a long-term absentee.
Marcus Rashford is suspended and Ander Herrera is injured. Marouane Fellaini and Luke Shaw picked up injuries over the international period and are doubts.
Watford have won 23 points at home since head coach Javi Gracia took charge in February - more than any other team in that period.
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