Manchester United host Watford in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday night and Simon Mail does not expect an upset at Old Trafford...
"Watford's last eight matches have all seen no more than three goals scored and the Championship side have only conceded eight goals in their 11 away league games."
Manchester United v Watford
Live on BT Sport 1
Solskjaer needs to overcome semi-final hurdle
Manchester United host Watford this weekend needing an immediate reaction after their latest semi-final disappointment. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side were beaten 2-0 at home to rivals Manchester City on Wednesday in their EFL Cup semi-final - their fourth successive semi-final defeat in the past 12 months. United need to get past this hurdle and will be determined to go the distance in the FA Cup after losing in the last-four last year.
It has been a strange season for United with the knives sharpening for Solskjaer after the club's Champions League exit last month. This came after a 6-1 thrashing at home to Tottenham at the start of the season but the team have rallied impressively, with eight wins and two draws in their last ten league games, to surge up the Premier League.
A point or better at Burnley next Tuesday will take United top of the league heading into their crucial trip to Liverpool.
Solskjaer will ultimately be judged on whether he wins trophies at Old Trafford and the club will know the FA Cup represents another big opportunity. Bruno Fernandes has been the team's saviour since his arrival a year ago and the attacking midfielder already has 15 goals in all competitions this season. Whether he starts this weekend is questionable though with Solskjaer expected to rotate his squad with the busy league schedule in mind.
Watford focused on promotion challenge
Watford suffered relegation from the Premier League last season and the club are expected to challenge for an immediate return. The Hornets are currently sixth in the Championship but already ten points behind leaders Norwich. The trigger-happy board axed head coach Vladimir Ivic after just four months in charge. The Serb payed the price for his overly defensive tactics with the dour football failing to win over the fans.
Ivic was dismissed last month with the club fifth in the league and replaced by inexperienced Spaniard Xisco Munoz. A 1-0 home win over table-toppers Norwich was the ideal start but Watford disappointed last weekend after losing 2-1 at Swansea.
It continued the club's poor away record with just two wins from their 11 league matches.
Watford's creativity and attack does not appear to be up to scratch compared with the leading Championship sides. Troy Deeney's best days are behind him and the captain rarely scores from open play while Andre Gray has netted just three goals since the start of last season. Highly-rated winger Ismaila Sarr remained at the club despite relegation but slightly more was expected from the attacker this season. New signing Philip Zinckernagel is available to make his debut this weekend with the Danish winger arriving following a prolific season for Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt.
United are understandably short-priced favourites for the game with the hosts 1.364/11 to win in 90 minutes. Everything is in their favour with the side progressing from 33 of their last 35 third round ties. United have won their last nine home clashes against Watford and it will be a major shock if this does not extend to double figures.
Watford are 9.89/1 outsiders for this match but only the most optimistic Hornets fan will be chancing them at the odds. Their record at Old Trafford is miserable and this Watford team have struggled all season away from home. Even if United make wholesale changes to their team, it is difficult to make a strong case for Munoz's side.
The draw is trading at 5.95/1 with the possibility of extra time and penalties after replays were scrapped to ease fixture congestion. United will be desperate to avoid an extended evening with no end in sight to the fixture pile-up and the hosts are backed to get the job done without an extra 30 minutes. But their odds in this market are unappealing and it is worth looking elsewhere to boost the odds on a home win.
Man United should be too strong for Watford but there is no guarantee of a high-scoring win. The Hornets have prided themselves on their defensive record this season and have conceded no more than two goals in every league game. Watford's last eight matches have all seen no more than three goals scored and the Championship side have only conceded eight goals in their 11 away league games.
Watford's goal threat is also limited, with just five goals scored on the road, while four of United's last five contests have each produced no more than three goals. The most likely outcome looks to be a low-scoring victory for Solskjaer's rejigged side. Combining a home win and under 3.5 goals, in the Same Game Multi option, increases the odds to a more appealing Evens.
In all competitions, Watford have lost their last nine away games against Man Utd and are winless in their last 13 trips to face the Red Devils since a 2-1 win in a League Cup tie in 1978.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster