This weekend the Premier League returns after the international break and Manchester United are back in action as they visit Vicarage Road to face an in-form Watford team who are aiming to make it five wins from five. So far, United have been poor with a number of lacklustre performances and have taken just six points from a possible twelve. In spite of that, they did give the fans reason to be optimistic as they defeated Burnley with relative ease before the players departed for international duty. Although not firing on all cylinders, United were professional in the 2-0 victory at Turf Moor and Burnley did little to threaten David De Gea in goal. In addition, Luke Shaw was impressive again as he continues to re-invent himself under Mourinho, and Romelu Lukaku was back amongst the goals. As such, it is not all doom and gloom and there are a number of aspects to be positive about looking ahead.
There are no such problems for Watford. It’s all rosy in the garden for the Hornets as they sit third with maximum points; just one of three teams to win all their opening games. They will fancy beating this United team and adding to Mourinho’s woes with another defeat likely to add to the increasing pressure he is already under from the media and a minority of keyboard warriors.
This week, I spoke to Andy Lewers of The Hornets Nest to preview the game.
Hi Andy. Watford have made a great start to the new campaign. What have you made of what you have seen so far?
Hello Jimmy! With four wins from four there can be absolutely no room for complaints. It’s the complete polar opposite of the back end of last season; an injured squad low on confidence to an almost fully fit squad playing with oodles of swagger and confidence. Javi Gracia deserves a huge amount of credit for the turn around during the off-season. He came in at a difficult time and has given the squad a much needed confidence boost and the supports renewed belief. There are clear differences between the way we’re playing this season to last. Mainly, we seem to be a lot more solid in defence. We’ve kept the same starting XI for all four league games so far, that familiarity between players clearly helps and it’s proving beneficial. Further, we know what we’re doing and the players know where everyone else is going to be. In addition, we’re physical and stubborn. This team seems to have a lot of fighting spirit about them and a refusal to give up even when going behind.
There are whispers on social media of a push for Europe. Is that beyond the realms of possibility?
After our brilliant start to last season, I started imagining all the places we could end up should we make it to Europe. That dream was swiftly put to bed. I’m being more cautious this season, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it slightly… It’s easy to get carried away and if we continue like we have been doing I don’t see any reason why we can’t challenge for a European spot this season, but I’m just enjoying the ride.
In contrast, Utd have been below par. Do you think Watford will fancy beating them this weekend?
Absolutely, though it’s difficult to predict what effect the international break will have had. It’s arguably a good time to play us after a break in the momentum. However, I expect Watford to be confident and to take the game to United. Let’s be honest, on paper United are still far superior than us and will be for a good while, so they have to be favourites for this game. Having said that, whilst we’re in the form that we’re in, I don’t see any reason why we can’t take all three points on Saturday.
What is your view on Manchester United from what you have seen so far?
If I was to use one word to describe Manchester United so far this season it would be: ‘uncertain’. It’s difficult to pin point what is exactly going wrong with United this season. You played well against Spurs and ended up losing 3-0 and then got a good result away at Burnley. If all that’s in the news is to be believed, it’s certainly not a happy camp. In spite of that, Mourinho is good at proving people wrong. I think United will be streetwise enough not to underestimate us on Saturday.
There seems to be a class of egos at Old Trafford between Pogba and Mourinho. What have you made of that as an outsider?
It’s difficult to know for sure what’s going on. There’s something about United in the news every day, I’m not sure how you keep up! This makes it tricky to distinguish between what’s real and what’s clickbait. Pogba’s certainly not performing to the best of his abilities under Mourinho, which is a great shame given he’s a World Cup winner.
Moving on to the game, how do you see it unfolding at Vicarage Road?
I expect a very physical game, especially when Watford try to bring Deeney into the game. A night under the lights of Vicarage Road is always one of my favourite occasions, so I’m anticipating the atmosphere to be electric and with essentially nothing to lose on our part, I’m hoping we play with a bit of freedom. I think we’ll score, but if United get the first goal it’s going to be very difficult to get an equaliser. If we’re to lose our 100% record, I’d rather do it against United than at Fulham next week!
What can United expect from Watford?
You can expect us to be physical, organised and have a never say die attitude. If we take the lead, expect us to be stubborn and manage the game well. It should be a really interesting match up.
Do you predict any changes to the line-up for the visit of Man Utd?
I actually don’t. We’ve kept the same starting XI for each league game so far this season and I think Javi is the kind of guy to employ the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ rule. I think he enjoys the stability and familiarity that an unchanged side (especially at the back) brings.
Finally, what is your score prediction?
I can never predict an opposition win, sorry but it’s just a rule of mine! I would happily take a point, though I’ll push the boat out and go for a nerve-wracking 2-0 to Watford!