Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] Kambwala to keep his place against Villa? Mainoo to start again? Hojlund to lead the line?

Youth are being given a chance this season and they are standing their ground at United!

Manchester United will welcome Aston Villa to the Theatre of Dreams in the Premier League on Boxing Day. Erik ten Hag will need to get the results at home again as United seek to better their league form after an exit of the Carabao Cup and the UEFA Champions League.

Villa missed their chance to rise to the top of the league on Friday evening after a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United, which could be something they regret if United manage to get the victory over them. However, under Unai Emery, Villa’s form has massively changed as they look to win.

It should be a good match on Boxing Day evening with both teams likely to put on a good display of their ability, with United so far underachieving this season. The January transfer window is upon us and I am sure players will be linked to the club but United need injured players back first!

Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1

Onana;

Wan-Bissaka, Evans, Kambwala, Shaw;

Mainoo, McTominay;

Garnacho, Fernandes, Antony;

Hojlund

Goalkeeper: Onana

Andre Onana is in deep water at United this season. It’s almost like he’s not a goalkeeper but a player who has been placed in goal to cover until someone is signed by the club. The mistakes he has made this season and the goals he has conceded are concerning.

Onana needs to solidify the United goal and soon. Conceding twice to the Hammers in a matter of minutes on Saturday was problematic – but it is not the only poor area on the pitch for United – they cannot score a goal for love nor money at this moment in time. It needs to change and fast.

The Cameroonian goalkeeper will be playing in the African Cup of Nations in approximately three weeks, so Ten Hag will need to make a decision between Altay Bayindir or Tom Heaton in goal – both of whom have not played a single minute of football so far this season. Terrible times.

Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Evans, Kambwala, Shaw

United’s defensive crisis is set to continue after Raphael Varane missed the West Ham match due to illness. He could be missing for the Villa match on Boxing Day too. Victor Lindelof has recently had surgery, so will not be fit to play and Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez are still sidelined.

This means that United will need to look at youth to strengthen the defence, which is a good thing at the end of the day. Jonny Evans and Willy Kambwala could partner in the centre of the defence again. The 19-year-old looked good against the Hammers and could shine against Villa.

With the absence of Diogo Dalot because of his red card against Liverpool, he missed the West Ham match. But Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw will be the starting players in the fullback positions against Villa. Rhys Bennett was drafted on the bench – and could stay there.

Midfield: Mainoo, McTominay

The midfield is a problem area for United too. Christian Eriksen returned against West Ham and could strengthen the midfield in the next few matches. Casemiro will be back in the New Year, so will Mason Mount and United will be much stronger with these midfielders back in the squad.

But against Villa, United may need to start Kobbie Mainoo and Scott McTominay once again, who have both played well this season with Mainoo looking very much the player he needs to be at United in a first team scenario. In time he will get so much better. What a talent.

Ten Hag will have Sofyan Amrabat and Eriksen to fall back on if changes need to be made – and they will. United’s midfield should be so much better than it is but players form and injuries have taken a massive toll on the squad. Something is not quite right and it needs to be fixed and fast.

Attacking Midfield: Garnacho, Fernandes, Antony

These positions are a major problem for Ten Hag and United this season. These positions should be creating and scoring goals, but in the last four matches, United have not scored a single goal and the chances they have had have not been that great either. Some should have resulted in goals though.

Alejandro Garnacho started on the right against West Ham, which could be the case for him against Villa too. Antony played on the left-wing and he did not shine in that position. For the amount his transfer cost United in the summer of 2021, he should be doing a lot more. He’s a flap right now.

Bruno Fernandes is also a player that is not carrying the club. His statistics at the club since he was signed in January 2020 have been impressive, but this season, with him being the club captain, I expect more from him. United are underachieving which means they are failing. It needs to change.

Forward: Hojlund

Rasmus Hojlund is a talented young striker and it is impressive what he has done for United this season, but only scoring in the UEFA Champions League, a competition that United have now exited and it all means nothing. The Premier League has been a problem for him – that needs to change.

The Danish international is a classy striker who has scored seven goals in ten appearances for his country and scoring 32 goals at club level – playing for FC Copenhagen, Sturm Graz, Atalanta and United in his senior career. The numbers are not brilliant but it is a start for a young striker.

It is hoped that Hojlund could become a predatory striker like Erling Haaland, who has stormed the Premier League with Manchester City. But that said, a striker with the ability to score goals cannot do it all by himself. He needs creativity behind him and United are not doing that so far.

Substitutes: Bayindir; Reguilon, Dalot, Bennett; Amrabat, Gore, Hannibal; Rashford, Pellistri

United will have nine players on the bench against Villa at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. Bayindir will be the goalkeeper on the bench – despite the poor form Onana is in right now. In defence, Sergio Reguilon, Dalot and Bennett will be Ten Hag’s options due to illness and injury.

The midfield is a major problem area for United with many of the first team players not performing to the required standards. Many of them seem to be unable to do simple things right now. Amrabat, Daniel Gore and Hannibal could all be options for the manager against Villa.

In attack, United have some major problems. It could well be that just Marcus Rashford and Facundo Pellistri are the options on the bench against Villa. But it could well be that other players are changes with the likes of Joe Hugill, Omari Forson or others being placed on the bench.

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.