Manchester United will return to Premier League action on Saturday as they welcome Aston Villa to Old Trafford in a match that has been brought forward from a traditional 3pm kick off because of other events in the area later in the day – The Courteeners have a gig at Old Trafford Cricket Club in the evening. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking for another victory in the Premier League, this time at home as the club seek to do better than last season. The club lost six times in the league with all the defeats at the Theatre of Dreams, which cost them a challenge with Manchester City for the title. This season could be so much different.
United were beaten in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening at the hands of West Ham United, whose only goal of the match was enough for United to be knocked out of the competition. United did have 27 shots on goal though and played a lot better than the Hammers, who now face Manchester City in the fourth round. United though, will have a week’s rest between the matches against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the last week of October, unless any matches need to be rearranged and with those matches between the double header against Atalanta in the Champions League, United are better off.
Previous meetings with Aston Villa and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Villa have bet a total of 52 times in the Premier League with United winning 37 matches, drawing 12 and Villa winning just three times. United have scored 97 goals, winning six penalties, scoring just five of them. Villa have scored just 31 goals, winning one penalty and scoring it. United have kept a total of 27 clean sheet with Villa keeping just six. Discipline seems to be a problem with United players being shown 75 yellow cards and three red cards with Villa players being shown 72 yellow cards and four red cards. Last season, United beat Villa twice; 2-1 at Old Trafford and 3-1 at Villa Park.
Villa and United both have history with many players wearing the shirts of both teams through the years. Axel Tuanzebe is the most recent, although he is on loan and will not be eligible to face United. Ron Atkinson, a former United manager, played for both United and Villa. Peter Schmeichel also played for Villa a year after leaving United. Eric Djemba-Djemba, Mark Bosnich, Dwight Yorke and Ashley Young, who left Villa for United, then Inter Milan and re-signed for Villa this summer. Tom Cleverley was once loaned to Villa, Steve Bruce is a former manager of theirs and Roy Keane an assistant manager.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Aston Villa in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea should be returning to the starting XI against Villa this weekend so he can continue the form that he has shown in the six matches he has already played this season. The Spanish goalkeeper has really shown the determination that he has to achieve with United and this season, the signings that have been made could further than with the club expected to mount a title challenge this season, which after five Premier League matches is going well with United keeping close to rivals Chelsea and Liverpool, who they share a position at the top of the table on – well at least on the same number of points.
De Gea has kept one clean sheet so far this season, which came in the match against Wolverhampton Wanderers but he went one step further against the Hammers in the Premier League at the London Stadium last weekend, seeing United equaliser through Cristiano Ronaldo, take the lead through Jesse Lingard and they in the last minute of the match, save a Mark Noble penalty which ensure that United took all three points on the road – which was something to celebrate after seeing United lose on penalties with De Gea not saving any of them, missing his own in the UEFA Europa League final back in May.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
Against Villa, United will revert back to their first-choice defenders with Aaron Wan-Bissaka restored to the starting XI but after his performance against the Hammers on Wednesday, I think Diogo Dalot should be given a chance to start in the Premier League. The Portuguese right-back spent a lot of the game attacking and could have had a goal himself on a number of occasions. I think in an attacking sense, he offers a lot more than Wan-Bissaka, who seems to defend well. He could come on late in the game as fresh legs with United defending a lead rather than trying to find a winning goal, or more.
Luke Shaw will return at left-back. He is having another good season at United, which is great to see after the start he had at the club, playing under three different managers and excelling under Solskjaer. United tend to be predictable as they attack from Shaw’s position, which is where Dalot could come in to change the game. In the centre of the defence, Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire will return to the starting XI after a midweek rest, which could see United’s defence back to full strength, despite the fact that Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly both did well against the Hammers at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred
It may not be the best midfield pairing for some, but Solskjaer sees something in the Scott McTominay and Fred pivot in the 4-2-3-1 formation that he likes to use. McTominay is perhaps the more talented midfielder in the pairing, despite those who only criticise him continuing their campaign about him. He scored the same number of goals as Anthony Martial last season, so as Martial is one of the best players at the club, according to these people, McTominay is right up there with him. McTominay is actually offering a lot more than Martial, if we bring facts into the debate. United need a new midfielder but perhaps Donny van de Beek could play alongside him?
Fred is a player that has good work rate and energy but in terms of ability, he always seems to make it look like he was lucky to get a move to United. There are so many matches that he has played in that I do not know how he got though them and got picked again. He’s not a player that will develop into one of the best midfielders on the planet but he might help United get through matches. Personally, I would like to see Van de Beek alongside McTominay, who can do the defensive workload with the Dutchman getting further forward on attacks and creating a seamless transition for the attack from the midfield. Fred will probably start though.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba
Solskjaer will have some of his big guns back for the clash with Villa at the Theatre of Dreams. I would expect Mason Greenwood to start on the right-wing after the display he showed against the Hammers, having a positive shot on goal almost as instantly as he came on. He’s a great player to have in the team and over the past two years you can see his level of development at the club – and he’s still a teenager for another week. Bruno Fernandes came on late against the Hammers and showed determination but it did not go United’s way in this match, which was a shame – but there are advantages of having midweek breaks now.
Fernandes will be striving to get the best out of his game in this match having scored four goals for the club so far this season – the same number of goal Cristiano Ronaldo has. It is expected that Paul Pogba will also return to action in this match, possible playing on the left-wing again, which has not worked as well recently as it did in the first match of the season at home to Leeds United. That said, United could fall back into a 4-3-3 formation with Pogba on the pitch which will give United a different dimension in attack, especially if both Dalot and Shaw play as they are both effectively attacking fullbacks.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo
In the three matches he has played since his return to Old Trafford, Cristiano Ronaldo has four goals to his name. In 295 appearances for the Red Devils so far, he has 122 goals. Solskjaer managed to score 126 goals during his player career at the club, of which Ronaldo was a part of and scoring four more goals will see the Portuguese record breaker match his manager’s goal tally for the club, which will be a positive day for Ronaldo. He might not have the time on his side to work his way to becoming the top scorer in the history of the club, but he could be right up there with Wayne Rooney and Sir Bobby Charlton.
Ronaldo adds something to United’s attack and that was missed in the 1-0 defeat to the Hammers on Wednesday, but it was also a perfect time to rest him ahead of the next test for United; Aston Villa at Old Trafford in the Premier League. United will also go head to head with Villarreal in the Champions League on Wednesday next week, which is a match that United will need to win to get points on the board in the competition and Ronaldo could help United a long way in that area. Despite his age, Ronaldo is a player that had added another dimension to this team, not to mention the qualities that he has as a player.
Substitutes: Tom Heaton; Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek; Anthony Martial, Jadon Sancho
Solskjaer will be able to name nine substitutes on the bench against Villa, two more than he was able to name in the 1-0 defeat to the Hammers in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening. Only three substitutes will be able to be used in the Premier League. I would expect to see Tom Heaton on the bench against his former club with De Gea restored in goal again after Dean Henderson started on Wednesday evening. In defence, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will all be available, should they be needed against Villa, which seems unlikely at this time, unless there is an injury in the match.
In midfield, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek could be available despite the trio all playing against the Hammers with the latter two both playing 90 minutes. Lingard played a good game against the club he as loaned to during the second half of last season and I think Matic was a positive influence in the first half, but tired in the second. Van de Beek should be playing more football this season. In attack, Anthony Martial will probably be on the bench despite his 90 minutes against the Hammers as I don’t think Edinson Cavani will be back in action this weekend. Jadon Sancho will be the other attacking substitute on the bench.
Written by John Walker