Aston Villa vs Manchester United Preview (January 15, 2022)

Written By Uttiyo Sarkar on January 12, 2022

Manchester United’s start to 2022 hasn’t been as exciting as they’d hope, as they’ve yet to get rid of the problems that troubled them last year. In their first away Premier League game of the new year against Aston Villa, they hope to leave some of their issues behind.

The Red Devils are yet to find their groove or rhythm under Ralf Rangnick. But with the gaffer now prepared to instill a system more suitable to this squad, United will look to get a commendable win over Steven Gerrard’s side & get back on track in their pursuit for a top-4 place.

Aston Villa Likely XI

Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Luiz, Ramsey, Coutinho, Buendia, Watkins, Ings

Villa have quite a few injury issues. Ashley Young, Marvelous Nakamba & Leon Bailey are injured. John McGinn is suspended, while Bertrand Traore & Mahmoud Hassan are on AFCON duty.

Manchester United Likely XI

De Gea, Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Telles, Fred, Matic, Greenwood, Bruno, Rashford, Ronaldo

Paul Pogba is still out, while Jadon Sancho is doubtful with an injury. Eric Baily is out on AFCON, while Scott McTominay & Luke Shaw are suspended.

Aston Villa vs Manchester United Preview

Man United have undergone a rough patch under Rangnick so far, not looking like their old selves. The players looked clueless, lethargic under his system which advocates high-pressing & a possessional-based approach, which the squad isn’t used to.

But as seen in their scrappy win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup 3rd round game, the German gaffer is willing to switch things up. This means United are likely to employ a more suited 4-2-3-1 formation against Gerrard’s side on Saturday.

That being said, the Red Devils have to significantly improve their performance levels from that game. They need to show more energy & desire to endure the test of a loud Villa Park & hand arch-rival Gerrard back-to-back defeats.

Cristiano Ronaldo should return & will look to finally get his 2022 started in stylish fashion. But the Portuguese forward has to focus more on getting into prime scoring areas than dropping deep, because Rangnick needs him inside the box to put his clinical finishing to good use.

Bruno Fernandes & Marcus Rashford are both going through a rough patch of form. They have a lot of prove. Fernandes has to look to regain his swagger in midfield, clinging perfect defence-splitting passes forward to create prominent chances and also get himself in key areas to get back among the goals.

Rashford looks drained of his former spirited self. He needs a positive performance to regain his electric nature. The Englishman’s pace & dribbling ability is unquestioned, but Marcus has to be more aware in the final third with his decision-making to get his mojo back.

Mason Greenwood has looked arguably United’s brightest under Rangnick, but hasn’t scored a PL goal in months. Like Ronaldo, he also needs to focus on getting in more prime scoring areas and taking accurate shots on goal to really trouble Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

With McTominay suspended, Rangnick could be forced to play the midfield duo of Fred & Nemanja Matic. That could aid the former to play a more advanced role in helping winning back possession & get the ball forward, while the latter protects the backline.

United’s backline will definitely need help based on how shaky they looked in the last game. Despite injuries, Villa have some quality players in their attacking arsenal. The latest addition to that is former Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho!

The Brazilian midfielder has tormented United in the past & looks to do the same in his potential Villa debut. With his creativity, clever movement & passing range, Coutinho could be the ‘X-factor’ on Saturday. Emiliano Buendia should also trouble United with his forward movement & clever passing ability in tight spaces.

Danny Ings & Oli Watkins are both dangerous, physical strikers. Their finishing ability, positioning, and pace can help light up Villa’s attacks. To keep the hosts’ onslaught at bay, Harry Maguire & co have to put their best foot forward.

That includes the United captain himself being a dominant brick wall at the back and improving his own positioning. Raphael Varane was solid in the FA Cup game win & looks to continue his Rolls Royce defending.

With now Shaw, Alex Telles will return. He has to be defensively strong to keep Villa from mounting attack from their preferred right-wing, while also whipping in quality crosses himself going forward. Diogo Dalot has to do some of the same to preserve his role in the starting XI.

But David de Gea has to expect a barrage of shots on his goal. He has to maintain his Superman-esque form to even keep United in the game. If the Red Devils allow Villa to dictate the game & dominate possession as they did in the FA Cup tie, they could be in trouble.

The Red Devils have to look to control the game, be defensively more agile & less shaky in midfield to frustrate the hosts. More importantly, they need to be clinical in their swift counter-attacks to get among the goals and get a precious away win to improve the squad morale.

Prediction

United look so low on confidence right now that I don’t fancy them winning against this rejuvenated Villa side. I see this being an entertaining 1-1 draw.

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Uttiyo Sarkar

An unbiased Manchester United die-hard. Lover of the beautiful game. Addicted to the Premier League and beyond. Hopeful writer in the search for the greater good.

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