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Dec 22, 2019 at 2pm UK
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Preview: Watford vs. Manchester United - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Watford vs. Manchester United - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Sunday's Premier League fixture between Watford and Manchester United.

Manchester United face Watford at Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon looking to extend their unbeaten record in the Premier League to seven matches.

Meanwhile, the Hornets welcome Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side to Hertfordshire sitting six points adrift of safety in the standings.

Match preview

While Solskjaer has had to deal with his fair share of criticism in recent months, the United boss is now entitled to receive a great deal of credit for continuing to develop his squad in his own way.

Promoting an influx of youngsters to the first-team setup could have worked against the Norwegian, despite United's desire to ensure that the emerging crop of talent remain at Old Trafford in the long term.

However, United have now put together a six-match undefeated streak in the Premier League, picking up 12 points, while maintaining their progress in the Europa League and EFL Cup.

Realistically, not much more could have been expected from Solskjaer at this stage of his tenure, and the level of performance which was produced in the derby showdown against Manchester City only increased the feeling that United are capable of reaching a higher standard.

Only drawing 1-1 with Everton last weekend was perceived as two points dropped, although it has left United just four points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, who have currently lost their way.

A fourth triumph in seventh would further enhance the momentum which is being generated at Old Trafford, a factor which could also prove pivotal when it comes to attracting a couple of high-profile names to the club in January.

Despite focusing on the development of his team as a whole, Solskjaer will be delighted with the return of Marcus Rashford, who has 10 goals and four assists to his name from 17 league appearances.

The 22-year-old has been threatening a high goals-involvement ratio ever since moving into senior setup, and United will not be far away from their targets at the end of the season if the England international can double each tally by the middle of May.

While United appear to be very much on an upward trajectory under Solskjaer, Watford can only hope that they follow a similar trend under Nigel Pearson.

If his first game in charge is anything to go by, that is a strong possibility with the Hornets justifiably feeling that they should have earned a result at Liverpool last weekend.

The bottom-placed side squandered several clear-cut opportunities at Anfield before eventually succumbing to a 2-0 defeat against the Premier League leaders.

Nevertheless, Pearson will no doubt have taken the positives from the performance, especially at the back with the likes of Christian Kabasele and Craig Cathcart putting in improved displays in the middle of the defence.

That said, Watford have now failed to score in four of their last five outings in the top flight - a pattern which cannot continue if they are to have any hope of avoiding relegation to the Championship.

Ismaila Sarr, who arguably missed the easiest opening on Merseyside, has been hit and miss since his arrival from Rennes, but the big-money signing will likely be provided with the opportunities to justify his £25m price-tag over the coming weeks.

Having recently returned from a knee injury, Troy Deeney could be the main beneficiary to that, and the club captain will relish the physical battle with Harry Maguire on Sunday.

Deeney may have to come out on top in that head-to-head tussle with the England defender if Watford are to upset the odds in front of their own supporters, who are still waiting to witness a home win in the Premier League this season.

Watford Premier League form: WLLLDL

Manchester United Premier League form: WDDWWD
Manchester United form (all competitions): DWWWDW

Team News

Solskjaer has revealed that he is not prepared to take any risks on Paul Pogba, who has not played since September 30 due to a ankle injury.

The United boss is likely to name the same team which began against Everton, although Andreas Pereira could potentially replace Jesse Lingard in midfield.

Given the level of his side's display against Liverpool, Watford boss Pearson may also opt against making any alterations.

Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck remain absent for the meeting with their former club.

Watford possible starting lineup:
Foster; Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenia; Hughes, Capoue; Sarr, Doucoure, Deulofeu; Deeney

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; James, Lingard, Rashford; Martial

Head To Head

Sunday's fixture will represent just the 33rd competitive meeting between the two clubs, with United recording 22 wins in comparison to just five victories for Watford.

Since the Hornets returned to the Premier League in 2015, they have only prevailed on one occasion, which came by a 3-1 scoreline in September 2016.

United have emerged victorious in the last five encounters, scoring 11 goals in the process.

We say: Watford 1-3 Manchester United

While Watford will view this game as an opportunity to pick up three much-needed points, United are starting to find their groove ahead of the midway point of the campaign. The Hornets could make it competitive for a time, but we feel that United's greater firepower will prove decisive.

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