Manchester United host Watford in a repeat of the 2007 FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park in which a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired United ran out comfortable winners.
After four successive semi-final defeats for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, most recently at the hands of Manchester City in the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford, the FA Cup could prove a presentable chance for silverware. United’s domestic form has been impressive aside from the result against City, and you would expect them to progress without much stress this evening.
United have won 33 of their last 35 third-round ties, losing against Leeds United in 2010 and Swansea City in 2014. United’s only absentees are suspended striker Edinson Cavani and injured defender Phil Jones. Midfielder Donny van de Beek, goalkeeper Dean Henderson and defender Axel Tuanzebe are among those pushing to start.
“We enter this competition wanting to win,” said Solskjaer. “There are a few players that had a few knocks. There will be a few changes but we’ll still field a team I’m confident in.”
The biggest decision for Solskjaer to make is the extent of squad rotation. Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes have been talismanic – the lack of goal contribution from those around them is a slight concern when it comes to the durability of United’s title challenge – and may be rested. There could be a chance for Odion Ighalo to start up front against his former club.
It is only Watford manager Xisco Munoz’s third match in charge of a side who are just inside the play-off places in the Championship.
Munoz said: “The most important thing is we go there and fight like animals and enjoy the situation.
“We go there with maximum ambition. We will work very hard and it is important to see we are growing game by game.”