After witnessing their game against Liverpool postponed because of insane protests, Manchester United are back in action in the Premier League against an Aston Villa side punching above their weight this season. The Red Devils are riding on a lot of momentum – but there’s no letting up at this stage.
With Leicester City lurking just behind, the Red Devils need a few more wins to qualify for the Champions League & guarantee a top-2 finish. They’re also intent on finishing this season unbeaten in away games, but have to be at their sharpest to fend off a Villa side well capable of causing an upset. Safe to say, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side must turn on their swagger & tap into their away-day magic to get back to winning ways in the league.
Aston Villa Likely XI
Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Ming, Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Traore, Barkley, El Ghazi, Watkins
The biggest injury absentee for Villa is influential captain Jack Grealish, who’s likely to miss the game due to injury. Morgan Sanson & Trezeguet are also on the sidelines.
Manchester United Likely XI
Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, Pogba, Bruno, Rashford, Greenwood, Cavani
Anthony Martial’s the only injury absentee & could be available after the Villa clash.
Aston Villa vs Manchester United Preview
Starting with the Aston Villa game, the Red Devils now have to play 3 Premier League games in the space of just 5 days. The postponed Liverpool game has really messed up their calendar & the United squad’s endurance levels will be tested to the limit over the next week.
Solskjaer needs to rotate around his squad, but he’s unlikely to risk his side’s perfect away record with a weakened team against Villa. In fact, he should probably go with his strongest available so that the Red Devils can pick up a big win before the games against Leicester & Liverpool.
Irrespective of whoever starts, Bruno Fernandes is a guaranteed name on the team sheet. Coming off some impressive performances in the Europa League, the Portuguese midfielder will be desperate to get back scoring in the PL.
Fernandes should look to get into more scoring areas with his clever movement against Villa & break their defensive line with his unpredictable runs. He’ll also want to create with his exquisite through balls & set-pieces, hoping his teammates can latch onto them.
Marcus Rashford will look to do just that as he’s desperate for a goal to boost his confidence. Rashford’s brilliant pace & off-the-ball movement can terrorize Villa’s defenders, but he needs to be more decisive in the final third to get amongst the goals. Edinson Cavani is enjoying a rich vein of form & as long as he gets adequate delivery in the box, the Uruguayan should continue his goal-scoring run.
Mason Greenwood isn’t perfectly suited for the right-wing role, but he’s the best United have got. He’ll look to wiggle his way into more central areas to unleash his devastating shooting attempts & also create some for Cavani. Paul Pogba should return to a more central role against Villa and should thrive if that happens.
The Frenchman is enjoying his best form in years & is extremely crucial in opening up opportunities for his forwards. He’ll look to weave his magic & create brilliant chances with his impressive passing & cause havoc alongside Bruno in the middle. Fred will be tasked to be that houndish figure in midfield who cuts out Villa’s attacks with his clever tackles & aids United on the counter.
While United are likely to dominate possession & play on the front foot, they have to be wary of Villa’s own attacking capabilities. Even without their influential playmaker Grealish, they can be a daunting prospect.
Ollie Watkins is in the form of his life & an absolute nightmare for defenders. With his movement, physicality and clinical finishing ability, he can cause the Red Devils lots of problems. Anwar El Ghazi is another unpredictable figure who can pop up out of anywhere to score or set up goals, while Bertrand Traore’s dribbling ability & move makes him a daunting prospect too.
Ross Barkley & John McGinn are also not just defensively strong enough but can pack a powerful punch in the attack. United have maintained a decent defensive record since Dean Henderson became the no.1, but that can change against this Villa side – who scored 7 against Liverpool at Villa Park this season!
Safe to say, Harry Maguire & co have to be at their sharpest defensively to counter whatever Villa throws at them. Even Henderson must be ready to pull off key saves to keep the clean sheet. Because of the confidence levels in both teams, this should be an entertaining end-to-end clash with lots of drama. United just needs to ensure they capitalize on their chances & outscore the hosts to get another win on the road.
I think United won’t have it easy against this in-form Villa side in this thrilling clash, but knowing their away form, the Red Devils should just pip them to a 2-1 win.