Manchester United have an opportunity make up ground in the race for the top four this weekend when they host Watford on Sunday.
With Chelsea and Tottenham squaring off the day before, at least one of United’s main rivals for Champions League qualification will drop points.
But United would already be level on points with the fourth-placed Blues if they had beaten Watford in their meeting during the festive period.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side lost 2-0 on that occasion; we’ve taken a look at how that happened and the chances of the Hornets stinging United again.
What happened last time?
United faced a Watford side reinvigorated by Nigel Pearson and struggled to find any tempo and fluidity in the first half.
Jesse Lingard had United’s best chance to take the lead but elected to chip the goalkeeper and fluffed his lines.
A staggeringly poor error from David de Gea meant Ismaila Sarr opened the scoring, before Troy Deeney’s penalty made the game safe.
Watford approached the game with the right desire and a clear gameplan, which was enough to overcome United on the day.
Can they do it again?
Since that initial early burst under Pearson, Watford have not won in their past four Premier League matches.
They have let results slip in the three most recent of those, which may have dented their confidence.
That confidence was coursing through them during the first meeting, but perhaps their winter break will have given them the chance to rest and reinvigorate.
It also means that Pearson has had two weeks to prepare a gameplan to thwart United and drill it on the training ground.
Given that he managed to do exactly that during the frantic festive period with less time to prepare, the former Leicester boss may fancy his chances of doing it again.
Who are the dangermen?
Troy Deeney is the obvious threat and it was no coincidence that Watford’s resurgence under Pearson coincided with his return from injury.
Abdoulaye Doucoure has been liberated into a more advanced number ten role and smashed home a sumptuous strike from distance in the Hornets’ last match against Brighton.
Ultimately, the game will provide a test of Solskjaer’s ability to manage his through three games in a week and the players’ ability to put in a performance on a weekend where it really counts.
Allaying some long-standing concerns about a lack of creativity against the league’s lesser lights would be most welcome as well.
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