It was another zero-sum weekend for Manchester United as they edged past Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday only to watch on as Manchester City regained an eight-point hold at the Premier League summit with a 2-1 success at Huddersfield Town 24 hours later. As a result, Tuesday's trip to Watford is just the latest game which feels like a must-win occasion for Jose Mourinho's side.
United's poor form between the October and November international breaks has given their Manchester rivals a significant advantage at the top, but the returns of the likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo and Marouane Fellaini have at least stabilised the Reds in recent weeks.
But, with a trip to Arsenal to come on Saturday, this feels like a key week coming up for United and Mourinho will feel that nothing less than three points at Vicarage Road can prop up their fading hopes of winning the Premier League title.
MAN UTD INJURIES
Eric Bailly and Phil Jones were United's main absentees at Old Trafford on Saturday as Brighton were beaten 1-0, but the Ivorian should be back in contention for the trip to Watford even if Jones is likely to be unavailable until at least the weekend.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has now made three substitute appearances since returning from an ACL injury and could be considered for a first start, while Marcos Rojo should be considered for another 90-minute appointment following his full return from a similar injury against Basel last Wednesday.
Michael Carrick has stepped up his training in recent days following a procedure to deal with an irregular heart rhythm but is not expected to return to play for the time being at least.
MAN UTD SUSPENSIONS
Neither team are missing any players through suspension, nor do they have anyone sitting on the verge of a ban ahead of Tuesday's clash.
MAN UTD POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP
As is often the case with Jose Mourinho and short turnarounds, there could be a number of changes from the side which saw off Brighton, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic primed for a first start since April. That could mean a change in role for Romelu Lukaku, who has shifted to a wide position in the last few fixtures following the Swede's entrance as a substitute.
Elsewhere there could be changes at full-back, with at least one of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young stepping aside and Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw all standing by. At the heart of the defence, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly may both return, potentially giving Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof a midweek off.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be pushing for a return after being left out of three consecutive starting line-ups due to poor form, while Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford will likely be back to fighting over one starting spot after two successive league games in which they have both been given the nod.
WATFORD TEAM NEWS
Marco Silva's side are coming off the back of confidence-boosting back-to-back wins over West Ham United and Newcastle United as they gear up to face a United side they beat 3-1 at Vicarage Road last season. Before those successive victories they had gone down to three straight losses in what was by far their most disappointing run of the season so far.
The Hornets have been one of the most impressive sides in the Premier League this term, with the form of Abdoluaye Doucoure and Richarlison in particular helping them build a five-point gap ahead of ninth-placed Brighton and the multitude of teams aiming to put daylight between themselves and the relegation zone.
Nathaniel Chalobah, Craig Cathcart and Isaac Success are all still out with long-term injuries for Silva, who has been the subject of interest from Everton of late, but the Portuguese manager has no fresh worries as United prepare to visit.
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
Watford have lost 12 of their last 13 games against Manchester United in all competitions, winning the other in the Premier League in this exact fixture last season (3-1).
The last Watford goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet against Manchester United in a competitive fixture was Tony Coton; in a 1-0 win back in September 1986 at Vicarage Road.
Manchester United have lost their last two Premier League away games; 1-2 at Huddersfield Town and 0-1 at Chelsea. They haven’t lost three successive league away games since January 1996.
Watford’s 21-point tally from 13 games is their joint top-flight record at this stage of a season, tied with their best-ever league campaign; when they finished 2nd in the 1982-83 season (also 21 points after 13 games).
Despite taking charge of both Hull City and Watford since becoming a Premier League manager in January 2017, Marco Silva has only won four games fewer (12) than Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho (16) in this period.
Richarlison has been involved in seven goals in his last eight Premier League appearances for Watford (four goals, three assists).
Romelu Lukaku could make his 200th Premier League appearance in this match – he currently has 93 goals. Only 10 players have scored more goals than this in their opening 200 appearances in the competition, with Alan Shearer (145) leading the way.
Lukaku scored seven goals in his first seven Premier League games for Manchester United, converting 23% of his shots. In his six league apps since then, he’s scored only once for the club and converted 6% of shots.
TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME
The match at Vicarage Road kicks off at 20:00GMT on Tuesday, with live coverage in the UK on BT Sport 1 beginning at 19:15.