Watford’s chances of pulling off their first win against Manchester United for nearly 30 years increased significantly this morning when Louis Van Gaal revealed he will be without five players for tomorrow’s game at Vicarage Road, including Wayne Rooney.
Rooney, who is ill, Michael Carrick, top-scorer Anthony Martial, Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia will all miss the Premier League’s lunchtime game while England youth international striker James Wilson is not fit enough to play 90 minutes, according to the United manager. This leaves the Dutchman having to possibly field this XI against the Hornets.
The last time Watford beat Manchester United was on September 16 in 1986 when Iwan Roberts scored a 75th-minute winner. The absence of Rooney, in particular, will raise hopes among fans of a shock win over the Red Devils.
“For the last five, six, seven years Rooney has been the best striker in England,” said Quique Sanchez Flores. “He has the level [to play at Real Madrid and Barcelona]. His skill, his power, he’s clever, he can score. He has the tools of every striker at the top.”
Troy Deeney feels talk of Rooney’s decline has been wide of the mark.
“He’ a victim of his own success,” said the Watford captain yesterday. “He was 16, 17 when he burst on the season and he’s know, what, 30? That’s nearly 15 years performing at a real high standard, with the hopes of his team and nation on his shoulders. Rooney has got loads of football left in him, so we should show him a lot of respect. He’s earnt the right to have a dip. He’s Wayne Rooney, he can do whatever he wants with a football.”
The loss of Rooney will increase the spotlight on Jesse Lingard, the young forward who was called up to the England squad last week.
“I know Jesse quite well,” said Deeney. “We’ve got the same agent and he’s a good kid. He looked like he was out of Manchester at the start of this season but he chose to stay, fight for his place and now he’s getting his rewards. He’s gone on loan and done it the right way, so fair play to him.”