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As the Premier League returns after the first international break of the new season and autumn edges closer, Manchester United find themselves languishing in mid-table.
Saturday's opponents Watford, meanwhile, head into the weekend joint-top after four successive wins.
United have endured a torrid start to the domestic campaign, following up a lamentable display against Brighton with a 3-0 humbling at home to Tottenham, prompting a remarkable outburst from boss José Mourinho.
The Reds steadied the ship with a routine 2-0 victory against Burnley at Turf Moor, but remain six points behind the early pacesetters.
Mourinho was at Wembley to witness Luke Shaw sliding a pinpoint pass through to Marcus Rashford for his goal during England’s 2-1 defeat to Spain in the UEFA Nations League, but he could be without both for the trip to Vicarage Road.
United must decide whether to risk Shaw, who Mourinho claimed is medically "free to play" after apparently satisfying concussion protocols following his sickening collision with Dani Carvajal.
Rashford is serving the first game of a three-match suspension following an altercation with Burnley’s Phil Bardsley.
If Shaw's absence from training this week ultimately convinces Mourinho to look elsewhere, Ashley Young could be the man to benefit.
The ex-Watford star, who made 98 league appearances during a four-year stint with the Hornets in the mid-2000s, scored twice in 4-2 win for United in last season's corresponding fixture.
Paul Pogba also returns to the United camp after impressing for France in the Nations League in a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands.
The World Cup winner has yet to replicate his international form on a consistent basis with the Reds, but possesses the ability to drag them out of the doldrums.
Mourinho, meanwhile, is trying to disprove predictions of more 'third season syndrome', having departed Real Madrid and Chelsea (on two occasions) either during or after the campaigns in question.
He is desperate to buck the trend and silence his critics this time, but he dare not look past a potentially tricky week ahead, starting with the trip to red-hot Watford.
United then travel to Bern to take on Swiss outfit Young Boys in the Champions League before hosting Premier League new boys Wolves next Saturday.
Watford, by contrast, have no such concerns and will view United's visit as a chance to claim another noteable scalp.
Javi Gracia, who guided Watford to safety after arriving at Vicarage Road in January, has been named August’s Premier League Manager of the Month after he masterminded victories over Brighton, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Tottenham.
Despite Richarlison following former boss Marco Silva to Everton in a £40m deal, Watford have started this campaign in impressive fashion with a largely unchanged starting eleven.
The evergreen Troy Deeney has struck up an effective strike partnership with compatriot Andre Gray, with both ably assisted by in-form midfield duo Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes.
Deeney, who was labelled a "special personality" by his manager after he inspired a come-from-behind victory against Tottenham, has scored two goals, while ex-Juventus man Pereyra has got on the scoresheet on three occasions.
For all the plaudits coming their way at present, the records show Watford have had three different coaches in the dugout for United’s previous three visits.
Quique Sánchez Flores, Walter Mazzarri and Marco Silva presided over occasional glorious highs, but they failed to capitalise on early promise.
Now firmly established in the middle echelons of the Premier League after promotion in 2014, Watford will hope Gracia is the man to guide them to regular top-half finishes.
Mourinho, who this week launched into an extraordinary defence of his handling of Marcus Rashford's development, will be well aware of the dangers of facing a side brimming with such belief and collective spirit.
His own charges undoubtedly possess the quality to dig out a vital away win, but they will have to rediscover their mojo to avoid being stung by the Hornets on Saturday evening.
Watford could name the same side that beat Tottenham 2-1 last time out, with winger Gerard Deulofeu still sidelined by a groin problem.
Tom Cleverley (Achilles) is a long-term absentee and will be in the studio with the BT Sport team to offer his take on the clash between his former club and his current employers.
Mourinho has not completely ruled out Shaw, but it would surely be a surprise if he was thrust straight back into the fray at Vicarage Road.
Diego Dalot, a £19m summer signing from Porto, and Marcos Rojo are both back in full training but will not be risked.
In addition to Rashford's absence, Ander Herrera (ankle) is a doubt, while Marouane Fellaini faces a late fitness test on a back complaint.
Gracia: "We've seen them in all the big international games and we know it is going to be a very difficult game. But we will try to compete in the same way we have done things in the last couple of games.
"I think that as soon as we begin to think the next game is going to be easier for some reason, we are dead ... we will pay heavily for any sense of over-confidence against a team like United."
Mourinho: "It's clear (the test). Four matches, 12 points. We know that three of these matches were at home, so in relation to the 12 points maybe we can speak about a little advantage in relation to other teams with two home and away.
“But fantastic start - 12 points is great for them. Good victories at home, strong performances, congratulations to Javi and to the players and to the club overall because it was a very good start."
Manchester United have enjoyed the majority of success in their rivalry with the Hornets, with 20 victories for the Red Devils, five draws and only five wins bagged by Watford.
Their most recent clash at Vicarage Road last season produced a thriller. United were 3-0 up and cruising until 77 minutes, when Watford struck a quick-fire brace to provide a tense finish, Jesse Lingard eventually grabbing a decisive fourth for the visitors.
Previous five meetings:
|13/05/18||Premier League||Man Utd 1-0 Watford||Rashford|
|28/11/17||Premier League||Watford 2-4 Man Utd||Deeney (pen), Doucoure; Young (2), Martial, Lingard|
|11/02/17||Premier League||Man Utd 2-0 Watford||Mata, Martial|
|18/09/16||Premier League||Watford 3-1 Man Utd||Capoue, Zuniga, Deeney (pen); Rashford|
|02/03/16||Premier League||Man Utd 1-0 Watford||Mata|
• Watford have lost 12 of their last 13 matches against Manchester United in league competition, with their solitary win coming at Vicarage Road in September 2016 (3-1).
• Of teams they’ve faced 10 or more times, only against Wigan (94%) have Manchester United recorded a higher win rate in the Premier League than they have versus Watford (90% - 9 wins from 10).
• Since Javi Gracia’s first home game in charge in February, Watford (23) have won more Premier League points in home fixtures than any other team (P10 W7 D2 L1).
• Jose Mourinho has won five of his six Premier League encounters with Watford (L1), including each of the last three.
• Watford have won four consecutive home games in the top-flight for the first time since December 1986. They last enjoyed a longer such streak back in October 1985 (7), a run that included a 5-1 victory against Ron Atkinson’s Man Utd at Vicarage Road.
• This is the first time that Watford have started a top-flight campaign with four wins from their opening four games. It is also the fourth time that three sides have won their first four games of a single season in the English top-flight (also 2009-10, 1969-70 and 1903-04).
• Man Utd have either scored two or more goals or none at all in each of their last nine Premier League away games, scoring at least twice on five occasions (W4 D1 L4).
• Romelu Lukaku has scored 19 goals in 38 Premier League matches for Manchester United.
• Should he net in this match, only three players will have reached 20 goals for the Red Devils in fewer games than the Belgian - Ruud van Nistelrooy (26 games), Robin van Persie (32) and Dwight Yorke (34).
• Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in six goals in five Premier League appearances against Watford (three goals, three assists), scoring in both of his games at Vicarage Road.
• Watford defender José Holebas has been directly involved in more Premier League goals than any other player so far this season (one goal, four assists).
Man Utd: 17/20
All odds correct with Bet365 at the time of writing