So another Premier League comes to a close as Watford travel to Old Trafford in what, like the majority of fixtures, is an absolute dead rubber. Neither team can make a difference to their league status and the only impact on the game will be United having one eye on the cup final next weekend.
Typical end of season game
This could be a strange affair, with Watford having had their feet up for weeks and United, with the point in midweek, secure in second spot. But there are 2 added ingredients to bear in mind with the recent sad news regarding Sir Alex Ferguson’s poor health, the United players may want to put on a show for him. Add to that the final appearance in red for club captain and United legend, Michael Carrick, if ever a game would have a friendly or testimonial type feel to it, this one will be it.
The ironic part of it is that it probably won’t just be Carrick who takes his final steps at Old Trafford as a United player, there is likely to be 3 or 4 following suit and will certainly not get the same send off as the Englishman. Following the bore draw at the London Stadium, Mourinho confirmed that Romelu Lukaku will return against Watford, probably to dust off some cobwebs ahead of the cup final following his injury layoff. Leading the attack with the big Belgian will be Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, with Carrick and Sergio Romero also confirmed as starters. With everything now wrapped up and with some pace in the side, it would be good to see the side play some free-flowing, carefree football at Old Trafford and give the fans a big performance to see out the season.
Final chance to play in the cup final?
Most clubs would use this game as a chance to warm up for the cup final and allow certain players to play themselves into form or into the cup final starting 11, unfortunately, this is United and Jose Mourinho we are dealing with and, however well players play, it will mean nothing for next week. I know this because it has been the case all season, Mourinho has his favourites, he knows his starting 11 and this game will have no impact whatsoever on the cup final, barring an injury.
For players such as Martial, Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, who could all play, this will be more of a chance to build their stock ahead of what seems like the summer they leave Old Trafford. I would expect Lukaku to be the only cup final starter who starts this game and hopefully Mourinho will blood some of the high performing youngsters at some point, such as Demi Mitchell, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes to give them a taste of Premier League football.
Although it is true that Watford have nothing to play for, they also have no reason to rest anyone so hopefully they put out a competitive 11 that will make this match a decent game to play in. Like United, I would expect a fairly high turnover of players at Vicarage Road this summer too, with Javi Gracia wanting to put his own stamp on the squad following his arrival midway through the season. Therefore, their players will be playing to remain at the club for next season, which should hopefully increase the intensity of the game a touch.
Let’s hope this is better than the last two performances at Brighton and West Ham, but it is almost impossible to be worse. Second place is never a disgrace and a cup final win will always be nice, but in truth, this season has not been good enough. Performances have on the whole been average or worse, with the side too often being defensively minded. This is a real chance to let the shackles off, go and express themselves and show exactly what attacking talent United to possess. I expect a high scoring send-off, with United winning by three or four goals, while giving Carrick the send-off he deserves.