Manchester United go head to head with Aston Villa at Villa Park in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. Erik ten Hag’s side are undefeated in their last nine matches, winning seven and drawing two – keeping a clean sheet in six off the matches. It is good form for United.
Villa have recently lost Steven Gerrard and gained Unai Emery, formerly of Sevilla and Arsenal as their new manager. Villa sit in 16th place in the Premier League before any of this weekend’s matches have been played with United sitting in fifth place – eight points off Arsenal.
United will need to maintain their current form ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this month and are on a three match winning streak which added to their nine-match unbeaten run shows a massing change to United’s fortunes based on their start earlier this season.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw;
Pellistri, Rashford, Garnacho;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea (and United’s defence) are in great form at this stage of the season. United have kept a clean sheet in six of their last nine matches, the last three in a row. De Gea now has 174 clean sheets as the United goalkeeper needing one more to match Alex Stepney’s record.
De Gea is also just six behind Peter Schmeichel’s record of 180 clean sheets for the club. It will be a big feat for the goalkeeper if he does get there, which seems likely but not until after the FIFA World Cup. United could keep three clean sheets in their next three matches though.
That said, Martin Dubravka will need to be tested in goal for United, which could come against Villa in the Carabao Cup in Thursday evening, giving De Gea a rest ahead of the Fulham match, the final club match ahead of the World Cup in Qatar which takes place later this month.
Defenders: Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw
Erik ten Hag might make a slight change to the defence ahead of this match with Victor Lindelof being replaced by Harry Maguire with the England defender partnering Lisandro Martinez for this match. It would keep the defence building on their form as Lindelof and Maguire have done well.
Diogo Dalot should keep his place at right-back, continuing to start each and every match United have played so far this season, which is testament to his form and what he has achieved for the club this season. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is now back from injury, so there are options now.
At left-back, Luke Shaw should keep his place as his form has risen lately and he is an important player for the team. I would expect to see more Tyrell Malacia in the Carabao Cup though. Martinez has been an impressive signing this season, adding some grit and leadership to the defence.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
Ten Hag does not need to change anything with the midfield going into this match. Casemiro and Christian Eriksen are the duo to keep in the team for this match as both have become dependable for United this season. Granted, changes may need to happen to keep them fresh though.
But this duo has been one of the best in recent history and their work rate, discipline and winning mentalities have helped United turn a corner with Ten Hag’s side getting good results more often than not this season. Donny van de Beek will need to work a lot harder to get in this team.
United have the likes of Fred and Scott McTominay to bring into the team but also youth players such as Zidane Iqbal and Charlie Savage, who got some opportunities during pre-season and will be on Ten Hag’s mind this season. There is certainly a lot of promise in this squad.
Attacking Midfield: Pellistri, Rashford, Garnacho
Alejandro Garnacho deserves to keep his place in the team after his performance against Real Sociedad on Thursday evening. With the expected absences of Jadon Sancho and Antony, it is a must for him to start as it could be great for United if he continues that fine form from Thursday.
Marcus Rashford played in the number ten position at a point in the last few matches and this could be something to test with Bruno Fernandes suspended from this match, which will give him a rest ahead of the two remaining matches before the World Cup. United have other options too.
Facundo Pellistri has not yet played a competitive match for United and now could be the time for him to get involved. If both Sancho and Antony are out of this match too, there will be no proper option other than Anthony Elanga on the right. I don’t think he offers all that much to be honest.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the best option to lead United’s line until Anthony Martial has returned from his latest injury – and he will probably continue to lead the line during the Frenchman’s next injury break as one will follow the current one. Ronaldo provided the assist for Garnacho on Thursday.
It seems that the legendary player might have some uses, even scoring the goals is not what is happening right now. Seeing him teach the likes of Garnacho will be good the the future of the club. Ronaldo is the GOAT for most fans of football and he will continue to be so.
But getting him integrated into the team and finding the goals is important if United are going to have options going forward. Martial is injury prone and the Glazer’s will not fund a new striker in January (most likely) so something will need to happen to find the goals this season.
Substitutes: Dubravka; Lindelof, Malacia, Wan-Bissaka; Fred, van de Beek, McTominay, Iqbal; Elanga
Nine substitutes can be named in the Premier League with five of them being used. United have problems in attack at this time but that might change in the next 24 hours or so. Martin Dubravka is expected to be on the bench for this match, possibly getting his debut on Thursday.
In defence, Victor Lindelof, Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka could all be available in defence, which could solve some problems going forward. In midfield, Fred, Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay and Zidane Iqbal could all be available for this match, which could be good.
However, with the likes of Anthony Martial, Antony and Jadon Sancho out at this moment in time, United will be light on attacking players for this match. Obviously, this might change before Sunday’s match and some of the injured players could be back, but it looks unlikely at this time.
Written by John Walker