Watford vs Manchester United preview, betting tips and prediction: Hornets to provide stern test of United's title credentials

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Manchester United travel to Vicarage Road on Tuesday night, looking to avenge the first defeat that weakened Jose Mourinho’s hand with the Red Devils last season. But it will be arguably even tougher against a high-flying Watford side currently under the stewardship of one of Europe’s most impressive coaches, Marco Silva, a man who cites Mourinho, his fellow countryman, as a coaching mentor.

The Hornets are currently safe in the top half, looking up rather than down. If they can fend off interest from Everton in Silva, there is no doubting they could continue their good work on current form. Following three consecutive defeats, they have won their last two, including a comprehensive victory at Newcastle on Saturday.

Mourinho’s men were poor against Brighton, winning 1-0 after losing by the same scoreline to FC Basel in the Champions League last week. A draw seems a good bet, but if we had to pick a winner, despite everything, it would be the visitors. They need all the points they can get if they are to close the eight point gap on neighbours Manchester City at the top.

Form

As mentioned above, Watford have been rather inconsistent in recent weeks, far more so than earlier in the campaign. Having beaten Arsenal at home, they went on to lose in rather unfortunate circumstances at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, creating enough chances to win the game while actually leading. But defeats to Everton and Stoke were more problematic for different reasons. It was vitally important for them to recover against West Ham and Newcastle, which they did by winning both, but a failure to put countless chances away was still a visible issue at St James’ Park.

Like Watford, Manchester United used a win over Newcastle to propel themselves. They beat the Magpies 4-1 at Old Trafford last week, with the returning Paul Pogba instrumental, but followed that up with the loss to Basel and by struggling to beat a well organised Brighton side on Saturday. The ghost of that defeat to Huddersfield away could haunt Mourinho as he takes his side to face a much better team both on form and paper. More disappointing displays from Romelu Lukaku will not have pleased the boss, either.

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Team News

Watford captain Troy Deeney returns from a three-match suspension and should go straight back into the team to face Manchester United. Before the incident with Stoke’s Joe Allen, Deeney was in good form and, although he scored against Newcastle, Andre Gray could make way after missing a host of other chances. Isaac Success and Nathaniel Chalobah remain sidelined and will not play.

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Manchester United will again be without Phil Jones, so Victor Lindelof should continue at the back. Pogba is fully fit again and will start, while Mourinho has a selection headache to deal with. Does he keep the faith with Lukaku when Zlatan Ibrahimovic is waiting on the bench for his chance to prove his fitness once again?

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