Team News: Manchester United
By Kevin Affleck
Nigel Pearson can attack the last third of the season with a near fully-fit squad after reporting that Daryl Janmaat, the last remaining player in the treatment room, is closing in on a return to action.
The Dutch full-back has not played since the win at Norwich because of a knee injury, but he has been out on the grass this week following an individual programme and has been pencilled in for a comeback game.
“We are making real progress now [with injuries],” said the Head Coach. “Hopefully Janmaat will play in the 23s next week and that means everybody is more or less available for selection.”
There was a big boost on Saturday morning when Kiko Femenía and Ismaïla Sarr joined in full training for the first time in weeks. They took part in a lung-busting team run over 16 minutes and showed no ill effects. The pair joined in the game-related stuff at different stages this week and the Head Coach will decide, along with the medical staff and his coaching staff, if he is ready to rush back players from soft-tissue problems into the cauldron at Old Trafford. The last thing he wants is to take a short-term risk and then potentially lose them again.
“We've had a very positive week,” he said. “Sarr and Kiko are back in full training which is good, but I suppose before the final selection for the weekend the conversation will be about managing risk because I want them back to stay back. I always have to detach myself somewhat from, 'Let's get the player straight back in'. It's about making decisions that protect us over the longer term.”
Pearson opted to give the players a few days off after the Brighton game, providing them with “a bit of a break after a very hectic period over Christmas and New Year.” The squad reported back on Friday and there was a real hunger and sense of enjoyment about the work they did on their return.
“Every day we go out, the players work hard and apply themselves properly,” he said. “We make sure we work in a manner which is committed to getting ourselves in a much better position.”
The players did some intense physical work on Saturday morning and then have been working on some tactical and shape work since, always with a degree of competition thrown in. Pearson does not need telling his side have conceded the advantage at Aston Villa, at home to Everton and then at Brighton, but he's a glass half-full kind of coach and wants to focus on the fact Watford had only scored nine league goals before he arrived. They have scored 15 since.
“I tend to take a slightly different view in that when we are in good positions in games, and when we come out the other side with a positive result, I still reflect on moments when we had good fortune as well,” he said.
“I'm not somebody who overly looks at our situation when we have given away points with late goals. I'm realistic. The one that was very frustrating was the Everton one. The Villa situation was very lucky and the Brighton own goal is something that happens. I'm not going to get myself in a situation where the mindset changes about how I see in general what the players have brought to the field. I know we get honest performances.”