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Watford v Man Utd: Could Gracia's buzzing Hornets be a trip hazard for Mourinho as Premier League football returns?

Manchester United travel to Vicarage Road to take on Watford this weekend seeking to end the home side's dazzling start to the Premier League season - but could Mourinho be set for a fall?

A trip to in-form Watford would not have been high on manager Jose Mourinho’s wish-list for Manchester United’s first game back after the international break - but the Portuguese coach faces exactly that in the late kick-off on Saturday afternoon, exclusively live on BT Sport 1 HD and 4K UHD.

The Hornets are buzzing after a perfect start to the Premier League season, picking up four wins from their first four games to go level on points with Liverpool and Chelsea at the summit of the table.

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But they will need to defy history if they are to continue their flawless form after losing 12 of their last 13 league matches against the Red Devils; only against Wigan do United have a higher win percentage in the Premier League.

However, under new boss Javi Gracia, Hornets fans have plenty of reason to believe last year’s 14th-placed finishers can cause an upset at Vicarage Road this weekend.

After arriving at the club in February, the quietly-spoken Spaniard has overseen Watford’s transition into becoming one of the league’s trickiest away-days; no other team has taken more points at home since Gracia’s appointment.

The former Malaga coach was rewarded for his phenomenal start to the season by scooping the Premier League Manager of the Month award for August, beating Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino and Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri in the process.

Team talisman and club captain Troy Deeney also appears to be back to his best this season, revealing a change in lifestyle and nutrition had helped him shed a stone during the summer.

The hard work appears to have paid off so far with Deeney pocketing two goals and an assist during Watford’s impressive start – and the former Walsall star will see little to fear from a flimsy United back line on Saturday afternoon.

Mourinho’s men have looked uncharacteristically fragile in defence, shipping seven goals in their opening four games amid an ever-changing mix-and-match of partnerships between the team’s five first-choice centre-backs.

The uncertainty appears to have impacted on David De Gea too.

Spain’s number one has now conceded as many goals as he has made saves – seven – since returning from a less-than-convincing World Cup campaign.

Such a poor start defensively will be salt in Mourinho's wounds after his much-publicised pursuit of a central defender during the transfer window.

Rumoured moves for Harry Maguire, Jerome Boateng and Toby Alderweireld all failed to materialise, leading to fan protests against chief executive Ed Woodward prior to United’s victory over Burnley last time out.

But the problems have continued to mount.

His struggles to extract the best out of midfield dynamo Paul Pogba have not gone unnoticed, with rumours of a rift between the two emanating from within the club last month.

They were quickly denied by both parties, but the breakdown in relationship comes despite - or pehaps, because of - the 25-year-old’s imposing World Cup performances.

The former Juventus man was imperious as he helped lead France to victory in Russia, scoring a goal against Croatia in the final, but the has rarely reached that kind of level since returning to United.

One saving grace for Mourinho so far has been the encouraging form of Alexis Sanchez, who provided a crucial assist for Romelu Lukaku against Burnley.

The Chilean winger enjoys playing against Watford, scoring three goals and laying on three assists in his six Premier League outings against the Hertfordshire club to date.

And with his last league goal coming against Swansea in March, he will be desperate to get off the mark this weekend.

Already languishing six points adrift of the early pacesetters, is it too early to declare the game a must-win for United?

Possibly.

But a third defeat in five games will do little to ease the growing discontent around Old Trafford as Mourinho already looks short of ideas on how to restore United to Premier League title contention.

See how Mourinho and Man Utd fare at Vicarage Road live on BT Sport 1 and in 4K UHD from 5pm on Saturday

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