Manchester United return to Premier League action on Sunday afternoon when they travel to Villa Park to face Aston Villa. It will be the first Premier League match for the club since the clash with Liverpool was postponed and has since been rescheduled for the coming week when United will play three Premier League fixtures in five days. Earlier in the season, United beat Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford and will be seeking the double over the Birmingham club – but Villa will be seeking to finish above Arsenal, which would be a good achievement for them, if it was possible. This will be a big match for United and a big week for the club.
United reached the UEFA Europa League final on Thursday evening with an 8-5 aggregate victory over AS Roma, despite losing 3-2 on the night at the Stadio Olimpico. Edinson Cavani has scored seven goals in his last six matches and the only match he did not score in was against Leeds United which ended as a 0-0 draw. It is a good stage of the season for the Uruguayan who has 14 goals to his name so far this season and he is the player that could drag United into a second-placed finish in the league the season and be the difference between United ending with a trophy this season with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer into his first final as manager.
How United have faired against Aston Villa in the Premier League.
United and Villa have played 51 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 36 times, drawing 12 times with Villa winning three times which really is not a good record against the Red Devils. United have scored 94 goals, winning five penalties and scoring four of them. Villa have scored just 30 goals, winning one penalty and coring it. United have kept 27 clean sheets with Villa keeping just six. In terms of discipline, United players have been shown 74 yellow cards with three red cards being shown. Villa players have been shown 71 yellow cards with three red cards also being shown.
Earlier this season, United beat Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford with Anthony Martial opening the scoring in the 40th minute of the match then Bertrand Traore equalising in the 58th minute and Bruno Fernandes scoring a penalty in the 61st minute of the match which got the win for United. In this fixture last season, United won the match 3-0 with Fernandes scoring a 27th minute penalty, Mason Greenwood scoring United’s second five minutes into added time at the end of the first half and Paul Pogba securing the win in the 58th minute of the match. United did play Villa in pre-season at Villa Park, losing 1-0 which put United on a poor start to the season.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Aston Villa in the Premier League at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Dean Henderson was rested against AS Roma on Thursday evening and has not played since the 0-0 draw with Leeds United almost a fortnight ago, so he will be raring to go against Aston Villa this weekend. So far this season, Henderson has made 23 appearances for United, conceding 16 goals and keeping 13 clean sheets. His commanding of his area is top class but he has some way to go before he’s considered as a world class goalkeeper. That said, there are supporters out there that would rather United broke a record to sign a new goalkeeper for the club – these people have no patience and don’t seem to want anything special. Imagine if these people were alive when the Class of 1992 emerged from the academy.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence did not look all that great against Roma on Thursday evening, conceding three goals altogether but two of them just three minutes apart. Eric Bailly played after not featuring for United before the last international break. Against Villa, who are safe in the Premier League, United could be faced with a few problems. Harry Maguire could break records this season playing every minute of Premier League football since he signed but these next three matches could put an end to that. Victor Lindelof needs to play alongside the captain with both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw playing in the fullback positions. United have done well this season but at this stage, they should be getting the results that need to end the season positively.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba
The midfield is a problem area for United. There are players at the club that do not suit the formation and others that need to play more football in order to settle in at the club. The pivot may not be the best formation to use but it is a formation that Solskjaer has utilised for much of his time at the club. Against Villa, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba should be starting. McTominay was rested against Roma on Thursday and is one of a small number of players who have been rested recently and will be able to cope with the week that lies ahead for United with three Premier League matches between Sunday and Thursday. United have the players, in varying abilities and hopefully there will be some sort of plan in rotation.
Attacking Midfield: Amad Diallo, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford
With three Premier League matches in the next five days form the Villa clash, United will need to rotate their players. Amad Diallo should be given more time on the pitch, having played just 96 minutes of first team action this season, scoring one goal. At U23 level, he has played 270 minutes of football, scoring four goals and three assists, so there is some ability in there. Playing him now would be good for him and the team. Bruno Fernandes will start too with United needing another win in the league with him scoring 26 goals and 17 assists so far this season. Marcus Rashford should play in the left-wing role he has played in this season, where he has scored 20 goals and 13 assists. This could work for United against Villa.
Forwards: Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood has ten goals and six assists to his name this season with half of his goals in the Premier League alone. Last season, Greenwood scored 17 goals and four assists, with ten goals coming in the Premier League alone, so if he plays his part in the remaining five matches of the season, he could match his goal tally from last season (in the league) and possibly seek to better it. United have six more matches until the end of the season with the UEFA Europa League final also added to their fixture list. Edinson Cavani is the best striker at the club this season, but having played on Thursday evening, I think he will be on the bench for this match. I reckon Marcus Rashford will be starting as the lone striker though.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek; Edinson Cavani
Solskjaer will have just three substitutions in the Premier League for the remainder of the season and with three three matches over a five-day period, rotation will be key. David De Gea should be back on the bench after his heroics against Roma. In defence, Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe could be available. In midfield, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek could be called upon if they are needed (as they will at times over this five-day period). In attack, United will have the services of Edinson Cavani, whose 14 goals and four assists have helped a lot this season and with him being in form, also needing rest, his appearances this week could be largely from the bench, which will be good for United.
Written by John Walker