Manchester United v Watford: Ralf to beat Roy

Manchester United are in pole position to take fourth spot in the Premier League, and Kevin Hatchard predicts they'll take another step forward against struggling Watford...

Rangnick defying his critics

Manchester United is the kind of club where there are no half-measures when it comes to coverage. Every win is a step towards glory, every defeat is a total disaster that heralds the demise of a once-great institution. The truth, as is often the case with these things, is somewhere in between.

Since Ralf Rangnick came in as coach, United have won seven, drawn four and lost only one of their 12 league matches. That run is admirably consistent when you look at the wild form of Tottenham and West Ham, and although clubs like Wolves and Arsenal have games in hand, it is United that have points on the board in the race for Champions League qualification.

Let's not forget that Rangnick is battling against ingrained bad habits on and off the field, a general malaise that means his all-action brand of football was always going to take time to bed in.

With the manager's role still unclear ahead of next season, Rangnick may never truly see United play the football he wants, but the equalising goal in Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid had his fingerprints all over it. A turnover in midfield, a lightning-fast surge forwards, and a speedy young player in Anthony Elanga to finish the move off.

Rangnick's willingness to field youngsters like 19-year-old Elanga is in keeping with his general philosophy, although it would be churlish not to give his predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his fair share of credit for the Swedish player's development.

Elanga is pushing for a start here, while Diogo Dalot could return at right-back, after Victor Lindelof played out of position on Wednesday. Scott McTominay is still struggling with illness.

Hodgson brought low by old friends

It's ironic that Roy Hodgson's worst result to date as Watford boss should come against Crystal Palace, his beloved club that he led with such distinction for several years. Wednesday's 4-1 defeat at Vicarage Road was harsh in terms of the scoreline, but it stopped Watford's momentum dead after their excellent 1-0 win at Aston Villa.

Hodgson has defied footballing gravity time and time again in his outstanding career, but this might end up being his greatest Premier League challenge yet. Watford have lost 10 of their last 13 top-flight matches, they have leaked 47 goals in 25 games in the league, and at time of writing their tally of 17 defeats is the highest in the division.

Juraj Kucka and Joao Pedro missed out in midweek and are still struggling with knocks, so Hodgson is limited in what he can do. Nigerian striker Emmanuel Dennis has had a mixed time recently - he scored the winner in the 1-0 success at Aston Villa, but missed a massive chance against Palace at 2-1 down.

United to grind out another win

Watford will go to Old Trafford with a gameplan, and will look to stay compact and hit on the counter. Hodgson is wily enough to know that a wide-open game is exactly what Rangnick wants, so expect a cautious approach.

United's form is far better than the doom-mongers would have you believe, and their greater quality should show through here eventually, as they chase a third win in four PL home games.

Five of United's last six PL home matches have featured fewer than three goals, but I'll give myself the buffer of an extra goal and back United to win and Under 3.5 Goals on the Sportsbook at evens. That combination has paid out in four of Rangnick's seven Premier League victories, and I just can't see Watford opening up here.

Sancho can strike at home against former home

Jadon Sancho spent eight years on the books of Watford, before making the move north to Manchester City. Seven years after he left the Hertfordshire club, he faces them as an England international who lit up the German Bundesliga season after season for Borussia Dortmund.

There are signs that Sancho is settling in at Old Trafford. He set up two goals in the recent 4-2 victory at Leeds, and he has scored in home matches against Middlesbrough and Southampton since the turn of the year.

Sancho is priced at 2.88 in the To Score market, and 3.1 in the Anytime Assist market.

Another angle is to use the Bet Builder to combine a Manchester United win with Cristiano Ronaldo to have two or more shots on target at 1.91. Ronaldo is averaging 1.24 shots on target per 90 in the Premier League, while Watford are giving up 14 shots per game at an average of 4.48 on target.

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