Manchester United will be back on the road on Thursday evening when the face relegation candidates Aston Villa at Villa Park. United have been in pretty good form since the restart of the season and have recently beaten Bournemouth 5-2 and Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0. Villa find themselves 19th in the Premier League, closer to safety than Norwich City but still likely to be relegated this season, which would be a shame.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be full of confidence ahead of their trip to Villa Park, after nearly five years since their last match in the iconic traditional stadium. United have not been beaten by Villa since a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford on the 12 December 2009 with Gabby Agbonlahor scoring the only goal of that match. Villa should fear United, which could contribute to their demise.
How United have faired against Aston Villa in the Premier League.
United and Villa have played 49 times in the Premier League with United winning 34, drawing 12 and losing three times. In total, United have scored 89 goals conceding 29. Both United have kept 26 clean sheets with Villa keeping six. United have been awarded three penalties, scoring two, with Villa awarded one and scoring it. In total, United have received 67 yellow cards to Villa’s 67 with both teams having three red cards.
Back in December, it was a 2-2 draw between the two sides at the Theatre of Dreams with Jack Grealish opening the scoring in the 11th minute, Tom Heaton scoring an own goal to equalise in the 42nd minute, then United taking the lead in the 64th minute through Victor Lindelof with Villa equalising through Tyrone Mings in the 66th minute of the match. It was an unfortunate draw for United but a good result for Villa.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Aston Villa in the Premier League at Villa Park on Thursday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The Spanish number one may have made another mistake against Bournemouth, unable to save a shot after Harry Maguire was nutmegged close to the near post, also conceding a penalty, United reigned supreme in that match winning 5-2 taking all three points which were up for grabs. This match could be problematic for David De Gea too with Villa seeking to get a win which might cushion their fall from grace this season, after arriving last season. A good performance is needed in this match with a clean sheet possible, considering Villa’s form but that 2-2 draw in December could come back to haunt United.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams
The defence is an area which is seeming a problem for United this season, especially at this time with both Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones out of action, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo both on loan. Victor Lindelof came off at half time against Bournemouth, creating a doubt for his involvement in this match. Suggesting that he’s out of action could see Eric Bailly parner Harry Maguire. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams could feature in the full back positions.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba
After Nemanja Matic signed a new contract at the club this week and the fact he was given three days off by Solskjaer, to save his legs for later matches, I think he will start on the bench, keeping his fitness for the upcoming matches against Southampton and Chelsea, resting him against Crystal Palace once again. In this instance, Scott McTominay could partner Paul Pogba in the centre of midfield, which could work against Villa, grabbing United three more points and keeping chase on a good finish in the Premier League this season.
Attacking Midfield: Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood
The attack is United’s best area on the pitch at present with Bruno Fernandes adding some much needed creativity, urgency and inspiration to get things going against the clubs opposition. Marcus Rashford has scored 20 goals for United this season with Mason Greenwood adding 15 and with Fernandes’ seven goals, that adds a lot of attacking experience and ability to support Martial and drive United to the victory, which is what they need to be doing in each and every match this season now.
Striker: Anthony Martial
The Frenchman scored his 20th goal of the season on Saturday against Bournemouth, becoming his best season at United in the five years he has been at the club, well almost. Scoring his first hat-trick against Sheffield United had made the difference with United seemingly attacking from all angles, which will worry their opposition, especially the teams who have Premier League football to lose this season, or even at risk of losing it. I think Anthony Martial could score five more goals this season, in all competitions, which would be good to see.
Substitutes: Sergio Romero; Ethan Laird, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic; Odion Ighalo
With five substitutes for the remainder of the season, Solskjaer should be able to get more use out of some of the younger and fringe players in the squad, keeping his first choice players fitter than they could be. Sergio Romero will keep his place on the bench with Ethan Laird and Luke Shaw the other defensive additions, presuming Victor Lindelof will miss this match through injury. In midfield, Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Daniel James and Nemanja Matic could be called upon with Odion Ighalo the only forward, should he be required.