15:00 BST, Sunday 13th May, Old Trafford (Manchester, England) Sky Sports Mix
José Mourinho may not be celebrating his team’s achievement of securing second this season, however, it’s a step in the right direction after last year’s sixth-place finish.
Like the other teams at the top of the table, the Reds have seen a drop-off in form over recent weeks, failing to win either of their previous two matches.
With a date at Wembley next weekend, his players will not want to pick up any injuries but equally, will not want to let their captain down on his own final day.
Javi Garcia averted Watford’s recent woeful record with a win over Newcastle this week but there was plenty of room left for improvement. With the Spanish manager’s future still garnering speculation about a premature end, the “giant-killer” will look to send his team into their summer break with a worthy scalp to provide optimism for next season.
Last Time Out
West Ham United 0-0 Manchester United (Premier League)
A stale, stalemate brought little cheer for either set of fans as United took a point to clinch a second-place finish in the league which Mourinho refused to cheer.
It was the United of Manchester who made the most attacking moves in the game, held off at arm’s length by Adrián who was in inspired form.
Mourinho fielded three centre backs in this game, a possible clue towards his thinking ahead of the FA Cup final with Chelsea also favouring a similar system. If this is the case, it will require some refinements as United were unable to break down a defensively-minded West Ham side.
While it was largely a lifeless encounter, it finally found a spark in the closing stages when Paul Pogba and Mark Noble came to blows. Referee, Jon Moss, felt the best course of action was to deliver a caution to each player and when the match came to its end, both players appeared to have already made amends as they left the field amicably.
Watford 2-1 Newcastle United (Premier League)
The Hornets delivered a commanding first half display to see themselves to victory and claim their first win in seven attempts. It was very much a game of two halves but as clichés go, this one proved to be highly accurate.
Roberto Pereyra gave them the perfect start when he fired the opening goal after only two minutes had crept over the clock. The Argentine winger was electric during the opening 45 minutes and should have added further to the score before he provided a cross with which Andre Gray converted to double their advantage.
Watford came close to more, especially when Gray won a penalty as the interval was drawing close, however, Troy Deeney saw his spot-kick well saved by Martin Dubravka.
The second half witnessed momentum shift to the visitors as they rallied to make amends for their first half display. A combination of good Watford defending and poor Newcastle finishing ensured only one goal was lost and all three points were claimed.
Manchester United Lineup
Michael Carrick will start in midfield in what will be the final match of his career ahead of a coaching role set to follow at Old Trafford this summer.
Romelu Lukaku (foot) is expected to be left out of the squad again to ensure he’s fit for the FA Cup final next weekend while Marouane Fellaini is also a doubt due to a muscular injury.
André Carrillo (thigh) joins Molla Wagué (hamstring) Younes Kaboul (fitness) Sebastian Prödl (illness) Tom Cleverley (hamstring) Stefano Okaka (thigh) and Nathaniel Chalobah (knee) on the treatment table for the Hornets this week. In better news, Gerard Deulofeu has recovered from his foot injury to give Gracia an extra option in bolstering his attack for the final weekend.
Key Battle: Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) vs Christian Kabasele (Watford)
One of the players to receive a public rebuke after their defeat at Brighton, Rashford was left out of the starting lineup in midweek.
The 20-year-old has not yet proven himself clinical in his favoured centre forward position but is expected to be given another chance to lead the attack against Watford.
The Hornets are likely to field three centre-backs with Kabasele being the sweeper tasked with organising their backline. While they should comfortably handle the limited aerial threat posed by Rashford, they will need to be constantly alert to his movement and reactions which could leave them flat-footed.
Rashford has proven at his strongest when allowed plenty of space to run at defenders, however, if Watford play with a deeper defence, the game could hinge on whether Rashford can find a way to break through the wall of yellow shirts looking to smother his attempts to prove himself one last time for United this season.
A fond farewell
Carrick has already spent time in the dugout alongside Mourinho this season to prepare for the next step in his career. This weekend, it will all be about the steps which he has left behind in the sand.
One of the Premier League’s, and England’s, under-rated players of modern times, Carrick moved to Old Trafford given the impossible task of trying to fill a Paul Scholes-shaped void at Old Trafford.
While the two midfielders played together on numerous occasions, Carrick was always intended to be the successor to Scholes’ throne.
While injury has hindered the final year of his impressive career, a heart complaint that he refused to allow himself to be slowed by, the current United captain stands tall amongst his fellow peers.
His metronomic passing and unflappable nerves will be a help for his team against Watford, the belief he will inspire in those around him could prove to be United’s biggest asset in this, his final outing.
Lifting a weight
Going into their fixture against the Magpies last weekend, Gracia’s future was looking to be in grave danger. After a brief revival from a long and bitter divorce with former manager Marco Silva, Watford have slumped heavily through the second half of this season.
With Gracia seemingly unable to turn the tide, the natural conclusion was that the trigger-happy Pozzo family would be back in the market for a new manager this summer. While nothing is certain yet, the signs are that they will instead back their current manager to turn things around after a full summer to re-mould the team of his own design.
The win against Newcastle has certainly lifted some of the grey skies from above Vicarage Road, as would a positive result at Old Trafford in their final fixture, but there looks a long way for Gracia to develop this team before he can truly rest easy at night.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Watford
Likely to be a stifled affair tinged with a huge amount of dead-rubber, this game does not appear to be a fixture which will quicken pulses. With Carrick set to play what could be his final professional game, there will be a carnival atmosphere inside Old Trafford and his teammates will not want to let their captain down with anything less than a win.