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Preview: Manchester United -v- Aston Villa- Premier League – Another cagey affair leading to a hard-fought victory?

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Manchester United -v- Aston Villa

Premier League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Friday 1 January 2021, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Michael Oliver Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett

Fourth Official: Darren England

VAR: Paul Tierney Assistant VAR: Lee Betts

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.

Manchester United: WDWWWD

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 W, Leicester City 2-2 D, Everton 2-0 W, Leeds United 6-2 W, Sheffield United 3-2 W, Manchester City 0-0 D

Aston Villa: DWWDWL

Chelsea 1-1 D, Crystal Palace 3-0 W, West Bromwich Albion 3-0 W, Burnley 0-0 D, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 W, West Ham United 2-1 L

Top Scorers: Aston Villa have scored 33 goals this season with United scoring 53; Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford lead with 14 goals each with Ollie Watkins scoring eight for Villa.

Manchester United Goals: 14 – Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, 4 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, 3 – Mason Greenwood, Scott McTominay, 2 – Daniel James, Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, 1 – Own Goal, Donny van de Beek, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

United have continued their good form and are now undefeated in their last six matches in all competitions. The exit from the UEFA Champions League is all but a distant memory with United looking to better their Premier League position rising into the top five before Christmas and now sitting second in the league still with a game in hand which was missed on the opening weekend of the season. Solskjaer’s side have scored 14 goals, conceding six, keeping three clean sheets; winning four times and drawing twice. The poor start to the season has been made up on with United competing with Liverpool now.

Aston Villa Goals: 8 – Ollie Watkins, 6 – Anwar El Ghazi, Jack Grealish, 3 – Bertrand Traoré, 2 – Ross Barkley, Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa Ngoyo, 1 – Keinan Davis, Kortney Hause, Conor Hourihane, John McGinn

Aston Villa started the season in fine form after nearly being relegated at the end of the 2019/20 season. The Birmingham club has been beaten just once in their last six matches, winning three times and drawing twice. In the last six matches, Villa have scored nine goals, conceded three and kept four clean sheets, which is a better defensive record than United in the same number of matches. Villa are not going to be a pushover and United will need to be at their best keeping in mind this fixture at Old Trafford was a 2-2 draw last season with United winning 3-0 at Villa Park.

Team News: Both United and Villa have two players that have been ruled out with one player a piece that could still be involved, providing they pass fitness tests.

Phil Jones (knee) and Marcos Rojo (calf) have both been ruled out of facing Villa at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day. Victor Lindelof (lower back) missed the 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday evening and is still receiving treatment for his injury, according to Solskjaer’s comments ahead of the Wolves match. He has just a 25% chance of featuring against Villa and could spend a bit of time on the sidelines. No decision has bee made to how long he could be out of the severity of the injury that he has. United have a number of youth players training with the first team, giving some depth, which may see some of them involved soon.

Mahmoud Ibrahim Hassan (thigh) and Wesley Moraes Ferreira da Silva (knee) have both been ruled out of the visit to the Theatre of Dreams on New Year’s Day, although the latter may come through a late fitness test if he has showed signs of recovery. Ross Barkley (thigh) has been out of action recently and currently has a 50% chance of featuring against United. Tyrone Mings was suspended for the 1-1 draw with Chelsea earlier in the week and will be eligible to feature against United, if selected. Villa seem to be in a positive position ahead of this clash, which could well be a tough one for United.

Predicted Starting XI: Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood to lead the attack against Villa? Scott McTominay and Fred in midfield?

Solskjaer will need to rotate a few players for this match, keeping them for the the challenges ahead of them in the Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup against Manchester City and Watford respectively. This match against Villa is going to be an important one as United look to add some pressure to league leaders Liverpool this season after they won the league so easily last season. Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, in the advanced role and Mason Greenwood could lead the attack with Scott McTominay and Fred in the pivot. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw could form the defence ahead of David De Gea.

Match Prediction: 50 matches have been played between United and Villa with United winning 35 times, undefeated in 47 matches, losing just three.

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.

Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa

Written by John Walker

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