It's non-stop from hereon. International football takes a four month break to allow for clean run of club football until March next year. As it stands, United have performed somewhat to expectations so far this season. The performances might not have been as Old Trafford is accustomed to, but the results have been coming in with more-or less regular frequency.
Indeed, that United could hit top spot by full time of Saturday's lunchtime fixture is testament to the improvement in results Louis van Gaal has engineered from his team. This time last year, title talk was firmly off the table. In a way probably nothing has changed since in that regard. Few, if any, would bet their bottom dollar on United coming out on top in May but it helps that the club is in a position where title talk is at the back of the mind, as opposed to completely out of it.
Having come through a sticky run of fixtures with one defeat---albeit a bad one, United can now look ahead to a run of winnable games between now and the end of the festive period starting with newly promoted Watford at Vicarage Road.
The premier league remains philistine to any complacency but these are games you feel United have to win if they are to lay a stake of the title battle in the second half of the season. Indeed, Saturday's trip to Watford is already under considerable threat after a couple of first team injuries whilst on International duty.
Louis van Gaal though does have an incredible tally of results after International breaks. United have gathered a total of 16 points from 18 available in the week following International breaks under Louis van Gaal. Fingers crossed there's three more to add to that this weekend.
Watford are the best performing of the newly promoted teams managing 4 wins and 4 draws from 12 games. That form is largely down to the free scoring Nigerian Odion Ighalo who has found the net 7 times in the premier league already. He and Englishman Troy Deeney are the offensive threat that accounts for 99% of the goals Watford have scored so far
in the top division. Suffice it is to say then that keeping the pair neutralised will effectively keep the clean sheets coming.
Anthony Martial will form the headline news at Louis van Gaal's Friday press briefing as the faithful await an update on the teenager's bruised foot. In the event that he fails to recover in time for the match, Memphis Depay could be restored to the starting XI having been frozen out since the defeat at the Emirates.
Michael Carrick is the other casualty from the International break. Whereas it is not known the length of time he will be absent, ankle ligament damage doesn't sound like he will return anytime soon. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin should comfortably keep midfield duties though.
Wayne Rooney returned to scoring ways in midweek for his country causing many to yet again hold their breaths about his possible return to form. In the event Martial fails to make the cut, the captain will have to shoulder the goalscoring burden on Saturday. No pressure then Wayne.
Jesse Lingard is enroute to cementing a place in the first team after opening his account for United last time out. A possible return of Memphis could see him pushed central, another position he is comfortable in. How van Gaal manages a possible shuffle of his attacking options remains to be seen.
The Bottom Line
United's rivals for the title will win at Vicarage Road. Arsenal have already won there. It is imperative that United pick up momentum ahead of the festive schedule and pick up the points that they should pick up. Watford away are three of such points. Anything else would be unacceptable for a title challenger.
Labels: ANTHONY MARTIAL, JESSE LINGARD, LOUIS VAN GAAL, MEMPHIS DEPAY, MICHAEL CARRICK, PRE-VIEWS, WAYNE ROONEY