Three changes Ralf Rangnick should make for Manchester United vs Watford

The German has a few selection issues to contend with when the Hornets come to Old Trafford.

Ralf Rangnick will approach the end of a hugely busy month for Manchester United, delighted that he has a full week between Saturday’s clash with Watford and the club’s next fixture.

United have managed to squeeze seven matches into the shortest month of the year, the last of which sees Roy Hodgson bring the Hornets to Old Trafford for a 3pm kick-off on Saturday.

The heavy fixture schedule has forced Rangnick to heavily rotate throughout February, but safe in the knowledge United have eight days between the visit of Watford and the Manchester derby on 6 March, the interim manager can select the team he feels is best equipped to face the relegation-threatened side.

While Watford should present a straightforward task, the Red Devils lost 4-1 at Vicarage Road earlier this season, resulting in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer being dismissed as manager.

Manchester United were beaten 4-1 at Vicarage Road in November. Credit: Getty.

His replacement is unlikely to suffer such a humbling defeat this time around, although he does have several selection dilemmas to make for Saturday’s fixture.

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We’ve taken a look at who we feel Rangnick should start with at Old Trafford…

Goalkeeper & defence

There’s no debate between the sticks, with David De Gea United’s best performer this season. However, it’s less certain ahead of him given the indifferent form of United’s defenders.

Chief among those is Harry Maguire, who, despite playing well in recent wins over Brighton & Hove Albion and Leeds United, has struggled this season. That was the case again on Wednesday as United drew with Atletico Madrid, and it’s remarkable the centre-back has been so rarely dropped this term.

He’s unlikely to be for the visit of Watford, especially given Rangnick’s public backing in recent weeks, but Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof look much more reliable options for the Red Devils this weekend.

Harry Maguire has struggled for form in recent week. Credit: Getty.

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The latter actually started at right-back against Atletico, but is unlikely to do so again on Saturday. Aaron Wan-Bissaka played at Elland Road and came off the bench in Madrid, while Diogo Dalot did not feature in either of those encounters.

The ex-Porto man had played eight in a row prior to that and impressed offensively for United, who are likely to be on the front foot when they take on Watford. It’s for that reason, Dalot is the best option at the weekend.

Saturday also offers Alex Telles a chance to return to the side, having not started since mid-January. Luke Shaw has done little to instil confidence in that period, and with Watford being a slightly kinder opponent it gives Rangnick the opportunity to reintegrate the Brazilian after his recent absence due to Covid-19.

Midfield

Scott McTominay remains out for United, meaning Fred will likely start again at the base of midfield.

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Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes have started in midfield during both of the last two games with the former hooked in the second period for a more defensive option, and against Leeds and Atletico it helped the Red Devils wrestle back control of the match.

United’s midfield has been unbalanced in games against Leeds and Atletico. Credit: Getty.

That might not be a problem against Watford’s less capable midfield, so Pogba and Fernandes could again play alongside Fred with United likely to dominate possession.

The Red Devils aren’t spoilt for choice either in those areas, with Nemanja Matic the only other option to come into the team.

Attack

With Edinson Cavani still out, Cristiano Ronaldo represents the only choice up front, even if the striker is experiencing a lean spell in front of goal. The Portuguese star has netted just once in his last nine outings.

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Meanwhile in the wide areas, Rangnick can select from Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Elanga.

Sancho is a must given his excellent recent form, and he’s been United’s standout man in February. That is a total contrast to Rashford, who is struggling to get back to his best.

Meanwhile, Lingard was poor against Leeds and was withdrawn in the second period. His replacement Elanga netted in the final stages at Elland Road, just as he did at the Wanda Metropolitano, and must surely be selected from the off when Watford travel to Old Trafford.

The young Swede is playing with confidence and is helping United to stretch games at present, while also providing goals to the side.

Our XI to play Watford: De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Lindelof, Telles; Fred, Pogba, Fernandes; Elanga, Ronaldo, Sancho.