Manchester United will face Aston Villa at Old Trafford in the Premier League on New Year’s Day with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side looking to keep chase on league leaders Liverpool after rising to second in the table with a last-minute 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday evening. United have scored 14 goals, conceding six and keeping three clean sheets in their last six matches, winning four and drawing twice. Their form in December did not start too well but ended on a high. United will need to get a good start to football in 2021 with the coronavirus pandemic starting to take hold once again.
Villa are currently fifth in the Premier League with 26 points, four fewer than United. They have done well this season after almost being relegated last season, which shows the threat that they have in the team. However, three players are close to earning suspensions with Matt Targett, Jack Grealish and John McGinn all one yellow card away from a one-match suspension in the league. United season will continue to be busy with up to eight matches to be played in January, including a Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City. At this stage of the season, nearing the half way point, United should be getting ready to fight for trophies.
How United have faired against Aston Villa in the Premier League.
United and Villa have met 50 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 35 times, drawing 12 times and losing three times. United have scored 92 goals against Villa, winning four penalties and scoring three of them. Villa have scored 29 goals, winning one penalties and scoring it. United have kept 27 clean sheets with Villa keeping six. In terms of discipline, United have been shown 70 yellow cards with three red cards whereas Villa have been shown 71 yellow cards and three red cards. United will be looking to continue winning as they rose up to second in the Premier League after beating Wolves.
In this fixture at Old Trafford last season, played on the 1 December 2019, it was a 2-2 draw with Jack Grealish opening the scoring in the 11th minute and Tom Heaton scoring an own goal in the 42nd minute to equalise. United took the lead throat Victor Lindelof in the 64th minute of the match with Tyrone Mings equalising two minutes later. At Villa Park inn a match which was played on the 9 July 2020, United beat Villa 3-0 with Bruno Fernandes opening the scoring from the penalty spot in the 47th minute, Marcus Rashford doubling United lead five minutes into added a=time at the end of the half and Paul Pogba sealing the win in the 58th minute.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Aston Villa in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Friday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
United have not been beaten competitively by Aston Villa since the 1-0 defeat in the Premier League on the 12 December 2009, more than 11 years ago. Since then, United and Villa have played a total of 16 matches with United winning 12 and drawing four. David De Gea started against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday evening, a 1-0 victory for United and he will be expected to start once again as United look to take advantage of Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle United, which sees United just three points adrift of the league leaders, with a game in hand. United should be confident of their improvement, which sadly, some seem to ignore.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United kept their eighth clean sheet of the season in the 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday evening and will be seeking to keep another in the first match of 2021 when they welcome Aston Villa to the Theatre of Dreams. Aaron Wan-Bissaka started against Wolves and he should be available to start for the second time this week. Luke Shaw was on the bench against Wolves, coming on at the start of the second half, which should see him able to start for this match. Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire should both keep their places for this important match as they both did well against Wolves.
Midfield: Fred, Scott McTominay
Solskjaer has more often than not used a midfield pivot in the 4-2-3-1 formation since he became the manager of the club. In the past few matches Fred and Scott McTominay have been paired together with Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Against Villa, Fred and McTominay could add something much like they did when United beat Leeds United 6-2 the weekend before Christmas. United will obviously have Donny van de Beek on the bench, who will be looking to get more minutes under his belt this season and could come off the bench in the second half to keep things fresh.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford
The area is where most of the goals have come from when Bruno Fernandes has been on the pitch. The Portuguese magnifico will need to be rested sooner rather than later and keeping him fresh to face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final will be important to playing Paul Pogba ahead of him against Villa could become a masterstroke as the Frenchman has done well in this position in the past. Mason Greenwood (three goals and three assists) and Marcus Rashford (14 goals and four assists) will play on either side with United seeking to respond fo Liverpool’s 0-0 draw against Newcastle United on Wednesday evening.
Forwards: Anthony Martial
The Frenchman has scored four goals and four assists this season and needs to start putting the string at the club and finding the goals that he scored last season. United need a striker up top that can create and score goals and find all the best places on the pitch to do just that. At this moment in time, Edinson Cavani does that and Martial will need to learn or find himself playing on the left-wing once again, behind Marcus Rashford, who has performed well in that position this season and last. Martial knows how to score goals and will need to get himself in the zone as United will be seeking to keep pushing on and adding pressure to Liverpool.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Alex Telles, Axel Tuanzebe, Teden Mengi; Juan Mata, Bruno Fernandes, Facundo Pellistri, Donny van de Beek; Edinson Cavani
United will be able to name nine substitutes in the Premier League for the remainder of the season, using three of them but in the Carabao Cup, only seven can be names with three being used with different rules in the Emirates FA Cup with up to ten substitutes able to be used. Against Villa, Dean Henderson will remain on the bench for United, should he be needed. In defence, Alex Telles, Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi could be used, if needed. In midfield, Juan Mata. Bruno Fernandes, Facundo Pellistri and Donny van de Beek should be available with Edinson Cavani the only forward on the bench for this match.
Written by John Walker