After a poor start to the season, Manchester United redeemed themselves somewhat with a good performance and a result against Burnley before the international break. They will be looking to pick up where they left off when they face Watford at the weekend, although that may well be easier said than done, given how Javi Garcia’s team have played so far this season.
Watford have beaten every team they’ve faced, including Tottenham Hotspur, and will be hoping to keep their 100% record when United travel down to Vicarage Road on Saturday.
United will be without Marcus Rashford, who scored two goals in two games for England against Spain and Switzerland during the break, as he was shown a red card in his last appearance for his club.
Thankfully they will have Romelu Lukaku, who again added to his tally for Belgium this week by scoring three goals in two games. He is now 10 goals clear of any player who has ever represented Belgium before, which is quite a feat when you consider he has only just turned 25.
Another impressive record he added to his collection recently was to score his 104th Premier League goal, which puts him level with Didier Drogba despite playing in fewer games.
While he has missed too many good chances already in the league this season, only two players have scored more goals than him. United supporters will be hoping the five goals he’s bagged for club and country over the past fortnight will ensure he’s brimming with confidence and ready to put away any opportunities against Watford.
How many chances he gets will depend on the tactics that Jose Mourinho goes for though. Away to Brighton, United were conservative and had no real direction. Away against Burnley, they were far more creative but likely benefited from how poor Sean Dyche’s team were on the day. Will Mourinho revert to type this week and play more defensively or will he allow the team to make it easier for Lukaku to add to his goal tally?
Can Sanchez shine at Vicarage Road?
One player who should be key is Alexis Sanchez who, for some reason, is still struggling to shine at United. While he’s had a few stand out moments, like his match-defining performance away to Manchester City at the Etihad last season, as well as scoring the goal at Wembley against Spurs that put his team in the FA Cup final, he’s yet to find any real consistency on United’s left flank.
Sanchez claimed his first assist of the season against Burnley before the international break, playing an inch-perfect cross for Lukaku to head in, and Mourinho will be demanding more of the same this weekend.
Jesse Lingard had a quiet international break and struggled to make his mark on the England team in their defeat against Spain and victory over Switzerland. Yet he has time and again proven to be a player that Mourinho can rely upon and will likely be called upon again to support Lukaku in attack.
Defensive issues continue to undermine the Red Devils
What the manager decides to go with defensively could be the determining factor in this game though. Mourinho has chopped and changed his central defensive partnership all season as he’s looked to find a defender he can rely upon. Having been turned down in his request to add a proven Premier League centre-half to his squad in the summer, he’s had to make do with what he’s got, and the results haven’t been promising.
Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof were a disaster against Brighton, while Chris Smalling and Phil Jones did little to redeem themselves in the 3-0 defeat against Spurs, despite starting the game well. The defenders United have available are prone to making huge errors and you can only imagine what impact that has on the rest of the team when knowing any time they concede possession it could result in a goal.
Statistically speaking, Lindelof has been the best performer so far this season (and that hasn’t always been the case), but he looks lost so often without having an experienced, top quality defender to play alongside him.
The opening games have shown why Mourinho was so keen on bringing a player like Toby Alderweireld to Old Trafford. When comparing United’s defenders to those at rival clubs Manchester City and Liverpool, it’s no surprise to see how badly they come off.
It’s safe to say United will likely concede a goal or two on Saturday, particularly with the form Roberto Pereyra (Twelve’s top player in week one) and Troy Deeney are in. United fans will have to hope Lukaku can do the business at the other end of the pitch.
Prediction: Watford 2-2 Manchester United