Watford v Manchester United: Hosts to pay the penalty

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be celebrating another three points come the final whistle.

The visitors look a good bet to win whilst conceding, while one of their goals may well come from the penalty spot once again, says Jamie Pacheco...

"If the league table was based on how many penalties you were awarded, United would be top. They’ve been given eight of them which is five more than anyone else and eight more than Everton, Norwich, Sheffield United or Newcastle."

Watford v Manchester United
Sunday December 22, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Why Watford are in this mess

If they carry on like this, they'll be relegated by about March. They've tried different managers (they're on their third for the season), different systems and different players but so far, none of it has worked.

Nine points from 17 games tells its own story but it's not impossible to turn things around. For starters, Nigel Pearson may be the right man for a backs-to-the-wall sort of job and secondly, theirs isn't the worst squad in the league by a long chalk.

If there is one area of improvement above all else, it's in the finishing department. Opta tell us they have converted just 4.7% of their shots this season which is pretty shocking. Goes without saying that unless they start scoring more, they only have themselves to blame if they're in The Championship next season.

Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas, two regular starters at full-back, are both injured.

Looking for the c-word

Consistency. What every manager strives for but also something there is no secret formula to. In December they secured a good 2-1 win at home to Spurs and an excellent 2-1 win away at Manchester City but there were also home draws against Aston Villa and Everton.

Not that taking eight points from four matches in the Premier League isn't decent, it's just that when you're Manchester United, you shouldn't be dropping points like that at home.

But comfortable wins over AZ Alkmaar in Europe and Colchester in the Carabao Cup suggest that all in all, it's been a good December for them.

Except for long-term absentees Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly, no-one of any note is absent.


What's the smart play on the winner market?

It's 4.77/2 the Watford win, 4.1 the draw and 1.814/5 the Man Utd win. So no surprises at all regarding the odds at first glance.

But when you think that United have won 14 of their last 15 matches against the Hornets in the top-flight, you start to wonder if the price on the visitors isn't a tad generous.

They're separated by 16 points in the table and perhaps more significantly, they've had pretty contrasting fortunes of late. Yes, United should have own those two home matches we mentioned but Villa and Everton (at the moment, at least) are tougher nuts to crack than Watford.

But if the 1.84/5 on United still doesn't do it for us, can we find a way of fattening up that price?

The answer may lie in the match odds/both teams to score market, where an away win with goals at both ends is available at 13/5 on the Sportsbook. We've mentioned Watford's woes in front of goal but we haven't mentioned United's problems at the back.

It's now 12 matches without a clean sheet for the Red Devils. Unsurprisingly, no-one in the league is on a run worse than that. It only takes a second to score a goal and Watford look a bit stronger now that Troy Deeney is fully fit at last. It's worth the risk.


Watford may pay the penalty

If the league table was based on how many penalties you were awarded, United would be top. They've been given eight of them which is five more than anyone else and eight more than Everton, Norwich, Sheffield United or Newcastle.

Worryingly for United, they missed half of those. Marcus Rashford was responsible for two of those misses, with Pogba and Anthony Martial also missing one apiece.

But Rashford has been much better of late , scoring his last two in the league and another in the Carabao Cup a few weeks ago. Watford, by the way, have conceded four spot-kicks this season with only Norwich (four) having given away more.

We'll trust Rashford and take the 4/1 United score from the spot.

United centre-backs worth a look to score

Given Watford's appalling scoring record this season, we won't bother trying to predict who will get that goal we need from them.

As far as United go, there isn't much to speak of in terms of value from among the usual suspects. We're sort of backing Rashford (6/5) anyway with the penalty bet, while Martial is 5/4.

Daniel James is no price at 23/10 given his current goal drought so it may be worth chancing one of the two centre-backs. Harry Maguire (15/2) is yet to score this season so 'may be due' while Victor Lindelof has already scored against Villa and is a far bigger 19/1.


Points Staked: 26.5
Points Returned: 36.1
P&L: +9.6 pts

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