First Team 24/12/2019

Team News: Sheffield United

By Kevin Affleck

Nigel Pearson says he plans to use the depth of his squad over the Christmas period, starting at Sheffield United on Boxing Day where he needs to replace the suspended Abdoulaye Doucouré.

Doucouré picked up his fifth booking of the season on Sunday, resulting in a one-game ban. Pearson must now decide whether to replace the Frenchman with Roberto Pereyra or Nathaniel Chalobah at Bramall Lane, but the Head Coach showed against Manchester United he has full faith in his bench by substituting both Doucouré and Étienne Capoue, arguably the best midfield pair in the league last season, when the game was at a critical stage.

“Over the next few games we'll need the squad to contribute as it's quite a hectic schedule,” said Pearson. “I don't really want to overthink things like this [missing Doucouré]. When players aren't available, I don't waste energy thinking about what we will miss.”

José Holebas, Tom Cleverley, Daryl Janmaat, Sebastian Prödl and Danny Welbeck all remain sidelined, but they will all seek solace in the way Troy Deeney has come back and is now fully up and running after scoring his first goal on Sunday since a knee operation.

“Troy will put pressure on himself as he's a talisman for us,” said the Head Coach. “He's going to be an important player for us. I think the injury has taken a while to recover from, but I am sure in the next few months he will continue to be an important player. I don't think it matters who scores – we just need to score more goals.”

Ismaïla Sarr now has two in the league after he hooked one in against Manchester United. He also won the match-clinching penalty. The Senegal international is starting to look a real handful on the right of a front three and has been really impressive in Pearson's two games in charge.

“He's a young man who is settling in,” said Pearson. “We can harness his ability and skill and he'll improve with time for sure. We talked about not really mattering how we won – it was about getting the result. It's always nice if you play well. But in the context of our season, we have got to try and pick up points whether we play well or not. That's about game management. We've got to be able to function well as a team. That's the key message for us. We've got talented individuals and they'll have a better chance of flourishing if the work ethic and team ethic is strong.”

First Team 23/12/2019

Deeney: “We've Stopped Feeling Sorry For Ourselves”

By Kevin Affleck

Troy Deeney insists the team must build on the exhilarating win over Manchester United and make it the start of a season-turning run.

Deeney was the heartbeat of a rousing performance against the 13-time Premier League champions and his penalty, tucked in nervelessly in front of the Rookery End, gave the team that all-important two-goal cushion. The celebratory scenes at full-time to mark a first home win of the season and only a second win in 19 games against the Red Devils were justifiable, but the captain wants more, much more. 

“We can't get carried away,” he said on Added Time. “It's a massive result. We've beaten Manchester at home and they are the biggest club in the world. We've beaten them on our patch. That's the standard now and you can't drop it when we play Villa at home. You have to keep that level of consistency. This gaffer isn't going to pull any punches. He has come in and all the nonsense has stopped. We've stopped feeling sorry for ourselves and started working together and I think that's what got us over the line today. It's been two weeks of hard work. It's easy to sit and sulk but we haven't done that.”

The signs were there against Liverpool that the team were moving in the right direction under Nigel Pearson and Craig Shakespeare and this result provided confirmation. There was nothing remotely fortunate about it. The Hornets deserved all three points. Even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said so afterwards.

“It's all going to be about how bad Man United were,” said Deeney, “but we have to take credit. We made them bad. We ran over them, we won 50-50s and Hughes was different class today. Even the two wide boys, Sarr and Deulofeu, who are not renowned for tracking back and digging in, they were there today. That's the standard now. The bare minimum is we have to work hard, be hard to beat and be ugly.”

No landmark win at Vicarage Road is complete without a contribution from Deeney. His penalty was the 27th successful one of his Watford career and his fourth against United. It was also his first goal of any sort since that memorable one against Wolves at Wembley.

“I don't care if I miss,” he said. “People might think that's nonsense, but genuinely. There are two results: you either score or you miss. I practised every day and I practised that I'm going to go the same side as De Gea, but I have slowed my run-up, knowing that if he moves before me, I can just open my foot up. And that's exactly what he did. He moved before me and I rolled it in. People say it's a gamble but I've been quite successful. I enjoy the pressure.”