Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United travel to Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon on the back of some very respectable form. It was hard not to be impressed with their back-to-back wins over Tottenham and Manchester City, which gave fans a much needed boost after losing to Astana and drawing at home to Villa.
Since then, United have thrashed AZ Alkmaar to top their Europa League group, and were persistent in breaking down a stern Colchester side in the EFL Cup to set up a tantalising semi-final clash with their noisy neighbours. However, their performance at home to Everton showed once again that they struggle when space is hard to find and I reckon they’re in for the same fate against a rejuvenated Watford side who will deploy similar tactics.
On paper, the stats don’t make for good reading for the Watford, who are sitting rock bottom after 17 games. They have failed to win 20 of their last 21 league games, and United have won 13 of the last 14 meetings between the two. However, putting that 8-0 drubbing from Manchester City aside, the Hornets have put in a string of solid performances against the traditional ‘Big Six’ sides this season. They came from two goals behind to salvage a draw against Arsenal, with Abdoulaye Doucouré missing a guilt-edge chance to grab a last-minute winner. They were equally unlucky to concede a late equalizer away to Spurs, and there were plenty of positives to take from their second-half performance in the 2-1 loss at Chelsea.
Last weekend, with Nigel Pearson at the helm, Watford took on the champions-elect at Anfield and, had they been more clinical with their finishing, the result could have been very different. Despite recent uninspiring stints at Derby and Belgian side OH Leuven, Pearson’s pedigree in the Premier League has to be respected.
The relegation escape with Leicester in 2015 was nothing short of remarkable, and bar the signing of Kante in the window that followed, it was the squad Pearson built that went on to win the title under Ranieri. He knows how to galvanise a team and get the right results, and I expect him to do a similar job at Watford. I wouldn’t be surprised if that process starts by halting United’s winning run against them, and I’m backing The Draw @ 11/4.
In Watford’s last three league games, there’s been under 2.5 goals scored and they’ve failed to score any themselves. Manchester United haven’t scored more than two goals in their last four league games, and have an average goals-per-game figure of 1.53. Their low-scoring affairs this season have typically come against teams who sit back and aren’t susceptible to blistering counterattacks led by Rashford and Co. There’s no denying the creative prowess of Deulofeu and the striker’s instinct of Deeney, but in the short-term I think Pearson is more focused on tightening up his defence and won’t want a free-flowing game against United. For this reason, I’m backing Under 2.5 Goals @ 10/11.
If United do break down Watford’s defence, it’s hard to look past Marcus Rashford. The 22-year-old is starting to unleash his full potential that’s been hyped up for years, scoring 10 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions. Taking this rich vein of form into account, I think Marcus Rashford to Score Anytime @ 11/10 is a very decent price.
I also think that combining these tips into a Same Game Multi treble at odds of over 18/1 is well worth a punt.
A £/€1 treble with the above selections returns £/€19.47 including stake on pp.com. Odds correct at time of posting, subject to change.