Chasing their first ever league win at Old Trafford and their second ever in more than 37 years, Watford are undaunted by the prospect of playing at Old Trafford this evening against a Manchester United side starting to show signs of a revival under Louis Van Gaal.
United have scored eight goals at their imposing citadel in the last two matches and the emergence of Marcus Rashford has reconnected the Red Devils with their restless supporters. Yet Quique Sanchez Flores is not taking his side to the north west simply to make up the numbers and just roll over. Although unlikely to win any extra points for artistic impression right now, this group are difficult to beat and if United, the overwhelming favourites for the match, are to win, they will have to work hard for it.
“We have very good players with high experience,” said Sanchez Flores who will be visiting Old Trafford for the first time in any capacity. “We are not going to be afraid to play or worry about the atmosphere. We have experience of playing in amazing, big stadiums like Stamford Bridge and Newcastle. The team is like, ‘No problem’. It is a good opportunity to have an amazing experience. I love so much games against this kind of team.”
Watford have only twice returned south from the red half of Manchester with anything tangible in terms of league points, drawing in 1984 and 1985 and losing on the other six occasions. The last league visit there ended in a 4-0 thumping with Chris Powell playing in central midfield. Luther Blissett received a special award on Saturday, commemorating him as ‘Watford’s favourite son’. It was his two goals at Old Trafford, in 1978, that earned the Hornets their one and only away victory at United, a 2-1 League Cup victory.
Rashford, 18, could stand between Watford and a historic result tonight, one that would represent quite a way to reach the magical 40-point mark.
“He looks really well,” said Sanchez Flores. “He has high quality. He moves into the space and I love how he is moving inside the box. He’s a very nice player, a good talent for the future of England. He is very good news for Manchester United. It is impossible to show [the players] too many videos [of Rashford] as he’s played two matches. We never plan for an individual player. The striker is a product of other things happening around this player.”
Watford’s strikers have hit the buffers of late. Odion Ighalo has scored only twice in the league since that memorable win over Liverpool and mustered just one in his last eight league outings. Deeney has two in his last nine – and they came in the same game against Crystal Palace. The team have fired a blank in five of their previous seven and recorded just one shot on target against Bournemouth.
“The most difficult thing is to create attempts,” said the head coach. “The feeling I have is that we are creating attempts. We are shooting 14 or 15 times [in a game]. We need more goals from the second line. Some players need to score the first one to believe a bit more.”
That’s you, Etienne and Nordin.