Man United v Watford: Mourinho's men can head towards FA Cup final with solid win

Man United midfielder Michael Carrick
Michael Carrick is set to make his final appearance for United at Old Trafford
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Andrew Atherley expects United to give Michael Carrick a winning send-off at Old Trafford...

"The loss to West Brom was a blip, as United have won eight of their other nine at home to teams outside the top nine (where a significant gap appears below Leicester). Seven of the wins were to nil."
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Man Utd v Watford
Sunday 13 May 15:00

Issues up front

Jose Mourinho has steered United to second place, their best Premier League position since they were champions in Sir Alex Ferguson's final season in 2012-13, but there is little sense of joy around Old Trafford.

United have been miles behind neighbours City and their campaign has been punctuated by poor performances at crucial moments, public criticism of players by the manager and concerns over whether the club is still following the 'United way', with Mourinho growing ever more prickly over the scrutiny that comes with the job.

After a second blank in a row with the goalless draw at West Ham on Thursday night, the issues lie up front in the absence of Romelu Lukaku. Mourinho had Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford on the bench at the London Stadium and brought on only the latter, leaving Alexis Sanchez to lead the attack alone for most of the night.

Having made eight changes from the side that lost 1-0 at Brighton the previous week, he will shuffle his pack again with the FA Cup final to come on May 19.

Mourinho has said Rashford and Martial will start again along with Michael Carrick, who will be making his final appearance at Old Trafford before taking up a coaching role.

Gracias to Gracia - and adios?

Watford changed manager again this season, as is their wont, and Javi Gracia has ensured a fourth consecutive term in the Premier League next season. They could still finish anywhere from 10th to 15th in the final table and that will constitute improvement on last season's 17th place, albeit they were well clear of the relegation zone then as well with a similar points total.

Gracia's record of W4 D3 L7 since mid-January is pretty ordinary and it would be no surprise if there is another managerial change this summer.

Gracia seems set to keep the same side that beat Newcastle 2-1 at home last Saturday, although Andre Carrillo could be ready to return from injury.

Hornets lack sting

Watford have been poor on the road under Gracia, failing to score a single goal in eight trips in all competitions and that includes visits to Stoke (0-0) and Huddersfield (1-0) in the Premier League and Southampton (1-0) in the FA Cup.

Gracia's side have been well beaten away to big-six teams, losing 3-0 at Arsenal, 5-0 at Liverpool and 2-0 at Tottenham, and United should be quite capable of achieving that sort of result.

The doubt about United comes from a couple of their recent performances against teams in a similar position to Watford, the 1-0 defeats by West Brom (home) and Brighton and the draw with West Ham, and possibly from the fact that they played away on Thursday night.

But the loss to West Brom was a blip, as United have won eight of their other nine at home to teams outside the top nine (where a significant gap appears below Leicester). Seven of the wins were to nil and six by two or more goals, so in general United have had little difficulty in this type of fixture.

The final match of the season can do funny things to teams with the pressure off, but on the form lines a United win to nil looks the bet to have at 7/5 with Betfair Sportsbook.

United's goals have dipped

Both teams have a slight leaning towards over 2.5 goals (United 51% and Watford 57%). United's figure is slightly higher at home but Watford's is slightly lower away, mainly as a result of their own low scoring rate on the road.

United's goals tallies have dipped at home in the second half of the season. By mid-January they had scored three or more goals in five league games at Old Trafford, but that has not happened again since.

Whether the shackles will come off because this is the last match of the season is difficult to judge.

Ref Watch

Lee Mason has one of the lowest card counts, with no more than two yellows issued in 10 of his 17 Premier League games this season.

Opta Stat
The Red Devils have won more final games in a Premier League campaign than any other side (17), losing only against Spurs in 2000-01 and West Ham in 2006-07. Watford are [9] for an upset victory here.


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