Ashley Young is relishing the prospect of a return to his former club Watford where three points will send Manchester United to the Premier League summit.
Saturday’s early kick-off at Vicarage Road gives Louis van Gaal’s team, currently two points shy of top spot, the chance to steal a march on nearest rivals Manchester City, Arsenal and Leicester City, who are not in action until later in the day.
It is a ground where England international Young underwent his footballing education and made his first steps in the Premier League before joining Aston Villa in January 2007.
“I’m really looking forward to going back. It’s the club where I started and learnt my trade and, hopefully, it’ll be a nice reception,” the 30-year-old told United’s official website.
“There will be quite a lot of my family going to the game, so it’ll be nice to go back.
“I started at Watford when I was 10 and left at 21, so I was there for a long time. It set me up and helped me get to where I am today and I thank everyone who was there at the time who I worked with.”
Following promotion last season, Watford have impressed under manager Quique Sanchez Flores on their top-flight return – amassing 16 points thanks largely to a miserly defence that has been breached only 12 times in as many matches.
“It won’t be an easy match,” Young cautioned. “A lot of people wrote them off at the start of the season but they’re a team that works hard and gets players on the ball, and they score goals.
“They’ve been in good form recently but hopefully we can go there and get the three points.”
Michael Carrick (ankle) and Anthony Martial (foot) are major doubts for Van Gaal having sustained injuries while on international duty with England and France respectively.
Watford have no new injury worries, with their captain Troy Deeney enjoying adapting to Premier League level.
A free-scoring striker in the Championship over the past three seasons, it took the 27-year-old until the 10th time of asking to get off the mark against Stoke City this time around.
He followed that up with another goal in the 2-1 loss at Leicester before the international break and he remains firmly focused on proving himself at the top level, while taking the occasional prices of fame in his stride.
“What I would say is the more successful you become the more isolated you make yourself,” Deeney told the Watford Observer.
“I don’t want any distractions. I’ve worked really hard to get to this position and I want to enjoy it. I don’t want to lose it over something stupid.
“I think my son has noticed that sometimes people are coming up to me in the street and asking for pictures. When that happens he keeps on walking with his mum while I stop and have a chat.”
Key Opta stats:
– Watford’s previous win against Manchester United came in September 1986, with their opponents winning each of the last nine in all competitions.
– Wayne Rooney has scored three goals in two appearances against Watford. He needs one more goal to become United’s outright second goalscorer in all competitions.
– Louis van Gaal’s team have not conceded a goal for five games in all competitions (555 minutes).
– Since his debut in January 2014, Juan Mata has been involved in 30 Premier League goals – more than any other player at the club.
– Watford have lost only two of their past nine matches at Vicarage Road, winning four and drawing three.
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