Walter Mazzarri’s Watford will be aiming for their first win against Manchester United since 1986 when they welcome the Red Devils to Vicarage Road in today’s early Premier League kick-off.
The Hornets find themselves in the middle of the table after a mixed start to the campaign, having recorded one win, one draw and two defeats.
Mazzarri’s men have faced some tough opposition in their opening four games, holding Southampton to a 1-1 draw on the opening day, before suffering back-to-back defeats at the hands of Chelsea and Arsenal.
They finally recorded their first win of the new season in their fourth attempt, rallying from behind to record a memorable 4-2 victory over West Ham United at London Stadium last time out.
It’s clear that Watford have not struggled for goals, but it is at the opposite end of the pitch where they will be seeking an improvement, especially against a United side that will be aiming to right the wrongs of last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to cross-town rivals Manchester City.
While the loss to their “noisy neighbours” will certainly be at the back of their minds, the Red Devils are also smarting from a shock 1-0 defeat to Feyenoord in their Europa League opener on Thursday evening.
What adds an extra layer of intrigue to today’s encounter is the fact that Mazzarri and José Mourinho will be renewing a rivalry that goes back to their time together in Italy’s Serie A.
The Portuguese tactician was at the helm of Inter Milan, while Mazzarri managed Sampdoria and Napoli.
Mourinho was critical of Mazzarri’s teams on more than one occasion, but the Watford boss insists he does not hold any grudges. In fact, he says they have a “very good relationship”.
“I have a very good relationship with Mourinho. Sometimes the press looks at what happens in Italy; the same with [Chelsea’s Antonio] Conte and Mourinho,” Mazzarri said.
Mourinho, meanwhile, has urged his side to forget their last two results and focus on the task at hand when they lock horns with the Hornets.
“I don’t think it will be easy [to bounce back], but the game will be independent,” he said. “It is a new event – it is another match and it starts at minute zero, so I think it has nothing to do with the two previous matches.
“Obviously, when you lose matches, the mood and feeling is not the same. That is normal, but the players are very good guys. They want to win, they want to work and that is what we have to do.”
In team news, Watford will be without the services of striker Stefano Okaka, who faces a month on the treatment table with a hamstring injury, while Younès Kaboul and Sebastian Prödl face late fitness tests.
For United, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to miss out with a thigh injury, while Eric Bailly will undergo a late test after picking up a knock against Feyenoord.
Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw are expected to slot straight back in to the starting line-up after being rested for Thursday’s Europa League clash. – TEAMtalk Media