Thursday 22 August 2019

United need two wins before city derby to keep title race alive

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: PA
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: PA

Mark Critchley

Top-flight titles are rarely won in December, but then it is also rare for a team to look so assured of their destiny as the Premier League's current leaders do.

Already, thoughts in Manchester are beginning to turn to the forthcoming derby at Old Trafford a week on Saturday, and not only because the city's two clubs have had to wait almost four months to meet each other.

After a weekend which saw Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool drop points, Jose Mourinho's Manchester United appear to be the only side capable of stopping Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, who in turn look like they could wipe the floor with every other side in the division.

Ironically, Sunday's hard-fought win over a team that finished with a negative goal difference in the Championship last season only seemed to reinforce that point. After weeks of pummelling whoever walked into their path,

City proved they could win the hard way against Huddersfield Town. Visits this week from two uninspiring Southampton and West Ham United outfits should prove much simpler.

United's schedule, meanwhile, is not so straightforward and tonight, they travel to Vicarage Road to face Marco Silva's Watford - a side that may well be 'the best of the rest'.

The Hornets have already held Liverpool and beaten Arsenal at home this season, and as Mourinho has noted, Silva has built a particularly potent attack.

"They have an unusual squad for a mid-table team," the United manager said on Saturday.

"They have a squad full of very good players who are not normal to be in these mid-table teams."

Last season's fixture featured two late goals to give the Hornets a 3-1 victory in September, condemning the Red Devils to their third defeat in a week.

That period remains the lowest ebb of Mourinho's Old Trafford reign and the United boss is aware just how hard it will be to exact revenge.

"Against Watford I was very upset with Watford's first goal after some guy sent (Anthony) Martial to the hospital and the referee let it go," Mourinho said.

"That is the reason why I was very, very upset at Watford. I think Watford made also progress."

Mourinho's side need to take three points from their trip to Hertfordshire tonight and they will need maximum returns again when they visit Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday.

If they fail to record two wins in a week, by the time the derby comes around on 10 December, the title race may well have been run. (© Independent News Service)

Watford v Manchester United, Live, BT Sport, 8.00

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