As Manchester United enter Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon, Watford fans may be feeling something they’ve never felt playing the team that’s beaten them 11 times in a row: optimism.
Granted, it will be extremely cautious optimism, but it’ll be optimism all the same. The two sides approach the fixture having had vastly different weeks.
Manchester United’s morale will be as low has it has been all season after losing two games in four days having had an unbeaten start to the season prior to that. Watford, on the other hand, have gone from the very bottom to the very top – all in one game. After coming back from two goals down at West Ham to win 4-2, they’ve suddenly become a team very much in form.
All the momentum entering the game lies with Watford, hence the optimism that the fans will be feeling. Only a fool, however, would write off a Mourinho team, especially one with the players that United have at their disposal.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in particular, will be a big threat to a Watford defence which has been creaky so far this season. The 34-year-old Swede was only a substitute in United’s 1-0 loss to Feyenoord, and with four goals already to his name, he will look to try and get a goal or two against a Watford side who have conceded an average of two goals a game this season.
A tale of two record signings:
Both teams have made club record signings in the summer transfer window, and the performance of the two players may well dictate the outcome of the match.
Watford signed Roberto Pereyra from Juventus for what could rise to £13 million. The Argentinian has only made two appearances so far this season, but he has made an instant impact for the Hornets.
One goal and one assist in two appearances isn’t half bad for a so-called central midfielder. Combine that with a 91.4% pass completion rate, and Pereyra starts to look like a serious bargain.
While not many people knew about Juventus’s sale of Pereyra, everybody in the world knows about their sale of Paul Pogba to Manchester United. The £89 million price tag has certainly raised a few eyebrows, but unfortunately for the Frenchman, his performances haven’t had quite the same effect.
Having made three appearances for his club so far in the Premier League, he has done very little to impress. No goals, no assists, and just an 83.7% pass completion rate has resulted in the midfielder coming under some scrutiny.
Time is on his side, however, and Pogba is a big game player. Now would be the perfect time for him prove his doubters wrong and prevent United’s bad spell from spiralling out of control.
If any manager can handle pressure, it’s Jose Mourinho. He’s clawed himself out of far uglier situations than the one he currently finds himself in. It won’t be pretty, but he has the ability, and the personnel, to get himself out of this one.
Prediction: Watford 0 – 1 Manchester United.