Manchester United ended their 2020 in emphatic fashion, with the win over Wolves taking them into second place in the Premier League! But the Red Devils know there’s still a lot of improvements to make heading into 2021, including being more unpredictable & clinical at Old Trafford.
They start the new year with a clash against Aston Villa, who have had quite the major transformation this season after surviving relegation. The Villains have defeated Liverpool (7-1!) and also snatched points away to Arsenal & Chelsea this season! They’ve created a fearless attitude & proven to be a tough nut to crack.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows that his side must put in a harder effort to get past this in-form Villa side & need to be more destructive in the final third. He’ll hope that the confidence gained from that late Wolves win motivates the team to go all guns blazing on New Year’s day to start the year positively.
Manchester United Likely XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Bruno, Rashford, Greenwood, Martial
Victor Lindelof remains a doubt after missing the Wolves clash for United. Edinson Cavani is banned for 3 games, so he’ll miss this one too.
Aston Villa Likely XI
Martinez, Cash, Hause, Mings, Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Traore, Grealish, El Ghazi, Watkins
Villa will be without their strikers Trezeguet & Wesley, while Ross Barkley could return from injury.
Manchester United vs Aston Villa preview
They might be neck & neck with Liverpool in the title race, but deep down, Man United know they need to perform better to stay up there. They can’t rely on deflected-winners every game & still need to sort out their issues at Old Trafford. Solskjaer will probably aim for a more cautious approach against this impressive Villa side, who haven’t lost in their last 5 league games. But he still needs to be brave in trifling his players to go toe-to-toe & outplay them.
Ole will ring in changes, which should see Fred & Scott McTominay back. Against an attacking side like Villa who loves to move forward in numbers, those two will be key in maintaining high energy levels, regaining possession, bullying Villa’s midfielders and getting the ball forward.
The attacking trio of Marcus Rashford–Anthony Martial–Mason Greenwood should also see a start against Villa. Those three did show signs of promise in 2020, but need to be more efficient & slick with their work in the final third.
Rashford is on cloud nine after that winner and needs to maintain his form. While his ability to dribble past opponents or get behind defenders using blistering pace is unquestioned, the United #10 still needs to hone his finishing skills & be more decisive in the key areas. Martial should operate from his preferred left-wing, where he should get enough opportunities to force his way into the box & get a few shots in from close.
The Frenchman has been frustrating in recent games & needs to be more accurate with his finishing or creative passes to win back the fans’ faith. Bruno Fernandes, of course, will again be at the centre stage of United’s attack. He’ll look influence the game in the free role behind the strikers, getting into those pockets of space to create chances & fox his way into goal-scoring positions.
Villa’s backline has seen major improvements this season, with Dean Smith’s side keeping 4 clean sheets in their last 5 games. However, their defenders are still inexperienced and that added quality from United’s attackers can cause them real problems.
The Villans have also become a force to be reckoned with in the attacking front. Jack Grealish has turned into every team’s tormentor with his creative skills, using his movement & intelligence to carve out brilliant chances. Ollie Watkins’ proven to be a shrewd signing, who is a menace for defenders with his clinical style.
Bertrand Traore & Anwar El Ghazi both add more power to their attack with their trickery & scoring ability, while John McGinn’s an absolute workhorse willing to run himself into the ground. Villa are an extremely hard-working side, so United’s resilience will be tested.
After the clean sheet against Wolves, David de Gea should be feeling confident. But he needs to maintain his good form & continue making terrific saves to help his side. Harry Maguire & Eric Bailly must be bullish with their approach and shut down Villa’s attackers before they find their groove. Aaron Wan-Bissaka & Luke Shaw’s defensive sturdiness is well known, but they must be more effective to bring an unpredictable dimension to United’s attack.
Villa are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with United. They will take the fight to the Red Devils knowing their vulnerability at Old Trafford. It’s up to OGS’ side to prove their doubters wrong, start the game in emphatic fashion & be more unpredictable, clinical with their attacking product to outwit the visitors and get another important win at home.
With Villa looking so good & United still not their best at home, this has a 1-1 draw written all over it.