Potential Manchester United XI vs Watford

Credit: lineupbuilder.com
Credit: lineupbuilder.com /

Manchester United return to Premier League action on Saturday lunch-time when they travel down south to take on Watford at Vicarage Road.

The Reds have been away for two weeks after their 2-0 win over West Brom at Old Trafford, where goals from Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata saw them earn a second consecutive victory and a fifth consecutive clean sheet. Now following the international break, Louis van Gaal may be forced to make some changes to his team after injuries struck once again.

While Marouane Fellaini pulled out of the Belgium squad with an unspecificed problem, he’s expected to be fit for the trip to Watford. On the other hand though, Michael Carrick and Anthony Martial both picked up injuries and while Carrick is definitely out of the game, Anthony Martial is just a major doubt for now after leaving Wembley on crutches following France’s clash against England.

In goal, David De Gea travelled with Spain to take on England in Alicante last Friday night but was an unused substitute as Iker Casillas completed the 90 minutes. The 25 year old was due to appear against Belgium on Tuesday but the game was cancelled due to security reasons and he ended getting a two week rest from playing. He’ll be back in the team totally refreshed on Saturday looking to continue his fantastic run of clean sheets.

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In defence, van Gaal has another natural defender to call upon once again. Matteo Darmian missed the win over West Brom through suspension after an accumulation of yellow cards but is available now once again. Ashley Young filled in well for Darmian but with van Gaal likely to be without Anthony Martial, Young may be used further up the pitch opening up a spot for Darmian to return.

Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have formed a solid partnership together since the latter’s return from injury this season. The duo started together for England against Spain and played very well together, before an acrobatic finish broke the deadlock. They have a great blend of physicality and an ability to read the game, making them tough for even the best attacks to break down. While Daley Blind has done nothing wrong, the fact that Watford are the home side may see them encouraged to attack more and Jones will be the favourite to get the nod alongside ‘Mike’.

Luke Shaw’s injury at left-back is without doubt the low point of the season so far, with his form prior to his leg-break hitting the heights we all expected when he signed from Southampton two summers ago. Since that moment, Marcos Rojo has been the stand-in and as the weeks have progressed he’s got better and better. The Argentine seems to be benefiting from playing in one position regularly and has begun to consistently produce positive displays both defensively and going forward.

In midfield, van Gaal’s decisions have been made for him. The last few weeks saw Michael Carrick return to good form following a slow start to the campaign but after an ankle injury saw him ruled out for a few weeks, Bastian Schweinsteiger is likely to once again be partnered by Morgan Schneiderlin in that holding midfield role. While Schneiderlin has been excellent in recent games too, he missed those games through illness and United once again seemed to find their scoring touch thanks to Carrick’s incisive passing. van Gaal will be hoping to ensure that the Reds don’t fall short creatively once again or the French midfielder could struggle to get a role in the team regularly.

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Ahead of the two defensive midfielders, United’s front four is facing chance too. Anthony Martial seemed fine as he jogged off the Wembley turf following his substitution on 66 minutes on Tuesday night. However after the game, he was photographed and filmed leaving the stadium for the French team bus on crutches with his left foot bandaged. While there has been no confirmation, United are hopeful it’s not serious but despite this he’s unlikely to be risked so quickly unless he’s 100% fit.

With Martial likely to miss out, Wayne Rooney will move back into the No.9 role. The England captain scored his 11th goal of the season for club and country against France, with a fine volley to claim his 51st international goal. In the last few games Rooney has earned some respite from some with sharper performances and Paul Scholes even labelled his performance against France as his best of the season.

He’ll need pace in behind him though which means we’re likely to see the continuation of Jesse Lingard in the team. The 22 year old celebrated his first Manchester United goal by receiving a belated call-up to the England senior team following the withdrawal of Leicester forward Jamie Vardy and while he didn’t feature in the game against France, the experience would have boosted him even more.

Full of confidence at the moment, Lingard’s directness and willingness to take risks has brought excitement back to Manchester United – something Louis van Gaal has applauded. He’ll look to continue his fine form on the left wing but he’ll be the fastest man in attack so will need to be on top of his game as an outlet.

On the right, Juan Mata can do no wrong right now. The Spaniard has been in fine form this season and has nailed down the right-wing spot seemingly for himself. His creativity and new found work rate defensively have seen Louis van Gaal warm to him massively and while the manager continues to openly admit that he wants pace on the wings, Mata continues to perform. Mata’s creativity will be crucial in carving open an in-form Watford side and his partnership with Ander Herrera could be key.

The former Zaragoza man has been relegated back to the substitutes bench in recent weeks after van Gaal seemed to blame him for the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace after his miss late on. However with Rooney’s move back up to the striker position seemingly inevitable, Herrera has yet another chance to claim his place in the starting eleven. Another option is Marouane Fellaini in the No.10 role and away from home he wouldn’t be a bad option. But with the style of play van Gaal likes to implement in games from the start, I think Herrera likely has the advantage in getting the starting berth this weekend.

Next: Lingard: I chose Manchester United over Liverpool

With a win temporarily sending Manchester United to the top of the Premier League, Louis van Gaal will want to win in style and an attacking team with positive football from the start is the best way of doing so.

Credit: lineupbuilder.com
Credit: lineupbuilder.com /
Credit: lineupbuilder.com
Credit: lineupbuilder.com /