A national cup game means a national start for Donny van de Beek, despite his omission of the XI for the midweek derby. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that Van de Beek will line up against Watford and that championship opposition does not justify two defensive midfielders, so Van de Beek could operate from a deeper role rather than 10 .
What does the attack look like?
There is little incentive to hold any of the starters against City; Bruno Fernandes started the last nine games and Harry Maguire the last 19 and both need a break.
If Van de Beek leaves behind the center-forward, Solskjaer could opt for a quartet with Mason Greenwood, Juan Mata and Daniel James. Alternatively, Van de Beek could start as the “6” and Jesse Lingard is greeted for his second start of the season.
Lingard is wanted by Sheffield United on loan and could use Watford’s play as a pulpit to speed up a move this month.
Ighalo to say goodbye?
Odion Ighalo has become so redundant at United that he won’t start against Watford but Solskjaer intends to introduce him off the bench.
Ighalo has enjoyed a memorable first six weeks with United until the pandemic halted his momentum, but the club have been extreme in extending his loan beyond the end of last season. The 32-year-old hasn’t played since September and failed to make the final two Carabao Cup squads against Everton and City.
Logic suggests Eric Bailly will return to midfield with Axel Tuanzebe, as the form of the former was not a sufficient test of Solskjaer’s Scandinavian solidarity with Victor Lindelof.
Tuanzebe, 23, has not started in the league all season and his career-high castration of Kylian Mbappe was followed by a penalty duel with Demba Ba. Tuanzebe impressed at right-back against Everton last month, but he must have a run-out at center-back.
Who’s in the right back?
Both United right-back options could leave this month: Brandon Williams is eager to secure a Premier League loan and Timothy Fosu-Mensah has rejected United’s contract offer, so he is free to negotiate with foreign clubs.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is certain of a rest, despite his questionable form, and Tuanzebe is arguably the top option to replace him. Right footed Williams impressed left last season but, after signing Alex Telles, he may need to switch wings to make a look again.