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Ratings: Elanga bagged a great goal, Greenwood and Rashford also scored – Fernandes and Fred played well in Brentford victory

Manchester United beat Brentford 3-1 at the Brentford Community Stadium in the Premier League. The first half was poor, even by United’s standards. Ten minutes into the second half Anthony Elanga opened the scoring with Fred assisting – which is his fourth of the season. Mason Greenwood doubled United’s lead with Marcus Rashford also finding a goal with Bruno Fernandes assisting both of them. It could have been a clean sheet for United but Ivan Toney scored a consolation in the 85th minute of the match. It was three points in the bag for United and now they must face West Ham United on Saturday at Old Trafford.

United seemed to be back to their uninspiring selves against Brentford. The Premier League new boys got the better of the Old Trafford club from the very start of the match. Without David De Gea in the squad this evening would have seen United losing – which is not a good position to be in. There are many problems to solve at United and they don’t seem to be getting any better. Against a team like Brentford, United should be inspired on the pitch and that does not seem to be happening. Something has to give for United this season and it does not seem to be happening. This team is lacking everything.

Rangnick’s instructions but either be ignored or none are being given with the interim manager on the sidelines with little or no emotion. This team has no drive, determination or anything about them. It was Brentford who were doing all the work in this half, which would need to be changed by United at some point or it will just be another case of points being dropped. United need to be doing a lot better. Having just four shots in the first half, none of those on target was not the best but I guess that is what happens. It was certainly going to be a touch second half for United and it would need to be with them needing a win in this match.

At the start of the second half there were no substitutions for either team. United seemed to be a bit better form the start of the second half but there was still improvement to be Gaines. Just ten minutes in, United took the lead through Anthony Elanga, who was played the ball by Fred, a player who tends to be criticised for not doing much but of late, he has provided some good assists this season – this one being his fourth. Elanga was given a great reception by the United faithful as he scored his first goal of the season. United needed to build on this goal to get the win, knowing what happened against Villa in their recent 2-2 draw.

Just seven minutes after opening the scoring, United doubled their lead which was important with Bruno Fernandes playing the assist to Mason Greenwood, who needed this goal after the bad patch he has endured through over the past few weeks. It was good to see United score a second goal, which should lead to more as they look to right some wrongs from the season. Just nine minutes after the second goal, Rangnick made a double substitution with Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire replacing Greenwood and Cristiano Ronaldo, who made his return from two matches on the sidelines this evening.

Six minutes after the double substitution, United scored a third goal with Fernandes getting his second assist of the evening – his eleventh of the season, seeing Marcus Rashford score his fourth goal of the season, which would have been welcome for him after the period of poor form he has been struggling with. It was much better for United but the writing was on the wall with United needing to change their ways. If Tottenham Hotspur did not beat Leicester City 3-2 this evening, which was left until the last few minutes of added time, United would have risen to sixth in the Premier League, but instead, if they still win, it will keep them in seventh.

In the 84th minute, after a few minutes of pain for Scott McTominay, his night was over as he seemed to be injured, which will be a shame for United as they seem to be a much better team with him on the pitch – even if he does receive a lot of criticism from the so-called supporters of the club. Nemanja Matic replaced the Scotland international. Just a minute lated, Brentford got a consolation with Ivan Toney putting the ball past De Gea, who will be annoyed that he was unable to keep a clean sheet. Christian Norgaard provided the assist for the home side. Rangnick will be happy with the result, not necessarily the performance.

There were four minutes added on at the end of the match and in the third minute, Fernandes had a good chance to score United’s fourth goal, which would have been his first of the match but he did not get anywhere near to scoring the goal. It won’t cost United as it stands but it was a big miss to make. United will face West Ham United at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon, which is an important match for United and they will of course need to win as the Hammers are above them in the league. Three points were in the bag this evening, which is all that matters at the end of the day – hopefully this is something to build on.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Put in a good performance as once again he was the different in United not conceding in the first half when they did not play a good game. Conceded five minutes from time to lose his clean sheet. MOTM contender in this match.

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20 Diogo Dalot

Did not have the best of starts but grew into the game. In the first half, United were under a lot of pressure and his attacking outlet was not the best. The second half was different so Rangnick must have talked to his players to boost them ahead of their bid for victory.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Uncomfortable at times. Brentford preyed on his lack of physicality at times. In the second half, he was more composed and confident as United too the game by the back of the neck and pushed for the victory.

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19 Raphael Varane

Composed performance. Seemed to be solid in the first half when United needed him to be. He's one of the MOTM contenders in this match.

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27 Alex Telles

His performance was not the best and improvement will be necessary. His attacking and his set-pieces were not good enough to give United an attacking outlet. Shaw will take his place back providing he performs better then the Brazilian.

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39 Scott McTominay

Struggled at times as the holding midfielder but dug his heels in and did what he needed to do. He won the ball which started the attack for Greenwood's goal. He was replaced by Matic in the 84th minute after suffering an injury.

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17 Fred

Got his fourth assist of the season but seems to be the first player who is criticised. He regressed after a good performance against Villa, but in the second half he stood up again. His pass into Elanga was good, as was the goal.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Seemed to be a passenger in the first half but improved in the second. Perhaps this will inspire him to find his form. Scored United's second goal of the game, assisted by Fernandes. He was replaced by Rashford in the 71st minute.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Impatient with his passing at times. In the second half, things changed and he managed to get two assists, not showing any selfishness in his lay offs to his teammates. A contender for MOTM after his two assists.

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36 Anthony Elanga

He seemed to be up against it in this match but he kept going. His goal got United started and it was a great goal to start his season off in style. He needs to keep playing in this team whilst he's in the kind of form.

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7 Cristiano Ronaldo

Frustrated. Things do not seem to be going well at United for him. He's a winner and this is not a winning team at this time. I can see why he's frustrated. Did well to feed Fernandes, who played the ball to Greenwood for United's second. Frustrated when substituted by Maguire in the 71st minute.

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Substitutes

10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced Greenwood 71'. Seemed determined to get something from this match. Seemed like he was trying too hard but managed to score United's third of the match.

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5 Harry Maguire

Replaced Ronaldo 71'. Saw United's formation change to a back three. Never had the captain's armband. Did what was expected but United conceded five minutes from time.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced McTominay 84'. Came on late in the match for an injured McTominay. Did what he needed to do. Never really had time to make an impact.

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Goals: Ivan Toney 85; Anthony Elanga 55′, Mason Greenwood 62′, Marcus Rashford 77′

Assists: Christian Norgaard 85′; Fred 55′, Bruno Fernandes 62′, 77′

Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles; McTominay (Matic 84′), Fred; Greenwood (Rashford 71′), Fernandes, Elanga; Ronaldo (Maguire 71′)

Substitutes Not Used: Heaton, Henderson; Jones; Mata, Van de Beek; Martial

Bookings: N/A

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Ronaldo, Greenwood, Elanga and Fernandes start against Brentford; Martial on the bench

Manchester United will travel to London to take on Brentford in the Premier League this evening. It was a match that should have been played back in December 2021 but was postponed because of coronavirus cases at the club, along with the match against Brighton and Hove Albion which is still awaiting to be rescheduled. Under Ralf Rangnick, United have lost just one match, drawing three times and winning four times, scoring ten goals and conceding six. It has not been the best and it has shown that those who blamed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for everything were in fact incorrect once again.

It looks like United will have up to five players back in the squad for this match, plus the option of youth players being added to the squad, which could be needed to show some of the players that there is life after them at United and if they need to be replaced, that could happen. United need to find a backbone and use it as at this time, with no new signings likely at the club this month. United need to have a plan and get something sorted. The lack of concentration which results in their opposition scoring and changing the game needs to be nipped in the bud and this squad of individuals needs to become a team. If that does not happen the rebuild is bigger.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles;

McTominay, Fred;

Greenwood, Fernandes, Elanga;

Ronaldo

Substitutes:

Heaton, Henderson; Jones, Maguire; Mata, Matic, Van de Beek; Martial, Rashford

Brentford:

Lossl;

Sorenson, Jansson, Pinnock;

Roerslev, Janelt, Norgaard, Jensen, Canos;

Mbeumo, Toney

Substitutes:

Fernandez; Ajer, Henry, Stevens; Wissa, Baptiste, Bidstrup; Forss, Ghoddos

United and Brentford have not yet met in the history of the Premier League as this if the London clubs first time in the top flight of English football. In the history of the two clubs, United and Brentford have met a total of 13 times with United winning six times, drawing two times and losing five times. The last competitive fixture between the two sides was in the League Cup in 1975 with United winning the match 2-1 with goals from Sammy McIlroy and Lou Macari. The last time United lost to Brentford was in the FA Cup in 1938, a 2-0 defeat. The two sides met in pre-season in the summer, drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford.

Joshua Bohui is perhaps the only player to have played for both Brentford and United, although this was at youth level. The forward came through the ranks at Brentford signing from the Evolution Sports & Health Academy in 2011. In the summer of 2016, Bohui signed for United’s academy on a three-year contract. He progressed through the U18 and U23 sides for the club but at the end of his contract, he rejected (twice) the offer of a four-year contract at United. He has since played for NAC Breda, Colchester United, Waltham Abbey and Hayes & Yeading United. Max Haygarth is at Brentford B, leaving United’s academy in the summer.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] Ronaldo to face Brentford? Elanga and Fernandes too? Jones and Varane in defence?

Manchester United will travel to London to take on Brentford in the Premier League on Wednesday evening. It was a match that should have been played back in December 2021 but was postponed because of coronavirus cases at the club, along with the match against Brighton and Hove Albion which is still awaiting to be rescheduled. Under Ralf Rangnick, United have lost just one match, drawing three times and winning four times, scoring ten goals and conceding six. It has not been the best and it has shown that those who blamed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for everything were in fact incorrect once again.

It looks like United will have up to five players back in the squad for this match, plus the option of youth players being added to the squad, which could be needed to show some of the players that there is life after them at United and if they need to be replaced, that could happen. United need to find a backbone and use it as at this time, with no new signings likely at the club this month. United need to have a plan and get something sorted. The lack of concentration which results in their opposition scoring and changing the game needs to be nipped in the bud and this squad of individuals needs to become a team. If that does not happen the rebuild is bigger.

Previous meetings with Brentford and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Brentford have not yet met in the history of the Premier League as this if the London clubs first time in the top flight of English football. In the history of the two clubs, United and Brentford have met a total of 13 times with United winning six times, drawing two times and losing five times. The last competitive fixture between the two sides was in the League Cup in 1975 with United winning the match 2-1 with goals from Sammy McIlroy and Lou Macari. The last time United lost to Brentford was in the FA Cup in 1938, a 2-0 defeat. The two sides met in pre-season in the summer, drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford.

Joshua Bohui is perhaps the only player to have played for both Brentford and United, although this was at youth level. The forward came through the ranks at Brentford signing from the Evolution Sports & Health Academy in 2011. In the summer of 2016, Bohui signed for United’s academy on a three-year contract. He progressed through the U18 and U23 sides for the club but at the end of his contract, he rejected (twice) the offer of a four-year contract at United. He has since played for NAC Breda, Colchester United, Waltham Abbey and Hayes & Yeading United. Max Haygarth is at Brentford B, leaving United’s academy in the summer.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Brentford in the Premier League at Brentford Community Stadium on Wednesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is United’s best goalkeeper, even if he is getting criticism from social media users because Dean Henderson is better. The thing is, if Henderson was impressing in training, he would have been given a chance in the team by Rangnick, but he’s not yet been picked. It is a shame because Henderson is the future for United but De Gea has been consistently good making saves and helping United defer the damage. The Spanish number one is only as good as his defence though and the book is open on the poor defensive record this season. Things are improving there but it is a long way from being completed.

If United had a midfield that could do all the things a midfield needed to do, United’s defence would improve – not that the defence could sit back and watch the midfield do all the work – they would nee to continue to put in 100% too. Raphael Varane is probably the best defender at the club at this time and he will do what he does best – but he is only as good as his partner, which recently has been Victor Lindelof. De Gea could be great if the problems had been addressed and that is something that United need to get sorted as soon as possible. De Gea has given United his best years and I am sure he will continue to give his best for the club.

Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw

The defence really need to up their game moving forward from the Villa draw. The fact that two goals were conceded in five minutes is a big problem that United need to be learning from. Aaron Wan-Bissaka might miss the Brentford match due to illness, which kept him out of the Villa match at the weekend. Diogo Dalot should keep his right-back position but he needs to learn that he could be seen as the weaker link in the defence which means he will need to strengthen his ability and find his feet in the role – if he wants to take on the best. Luke Shaw, who was suspended against Villa, should take back his left-back position and perform well.

In the centre of the defence, Raphael Varane and Phil Jones should partner again. They have performed well together once before in the match that Jones played, which was his first senior match in about two years. He was the only player praised for that performance and he should be given another chance, which might help the other defenders see that they need to up their game to be chosen to play time and time again. Maguire is a professional and has been a saviour to United at times since he signed for the club but more recently his performances have been poor and his form has suffered a lot. It needs to get much better for United.

Midfield: Fred, Scott McTominay

United’s midfield has been left to rot by the club. The wrong players have been brought to the club and there is no strength in depth or an ability to run matches from the midfield, which was done by the likes of Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes etc – in recent history. Now, United have a player who seems to be injured more often than not with his contract expiring in the summer, a player who has lost his legs, a player hardly ever tested in the league and two players chosen for their hunger and the way they work together – a duo that most moan about but little has ever been done to rectify the problems.

It would seem that Fred and Scott McTominay will start against Brentford and they will be expected to be at the top of their game. Saying that, McTominay has scored a few recent goals with Fred assisting Bruno Fernandes at the weekend – so there is hope that they can continue that form this season and improve in their positioning and work towards getting United out of the hole the club has dug for themselves. In the summer though, United will need to bring in quality players, offloading those that are not right for the club, keeping the squad players and promoting youth to have strength in depth in these positions. Will they do it though? I’m not hopeful.

Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Elanga

United have some great attacking talent with some good up and coming players in the academy. This is where United should be doing a lot of the creation but it has not been happening in that way. Against Villa on Saturday, Bruno Fernandes scored a brace, captaining the club, putting in a decent performance – which was something that he needed to do in order to keep his place in the team after an uninspiring period on the pitch. United have some options in these areas but form, ability and whether the player could be bothered seem to be a factor at this time, or at least that is what it looks like.

Anthony Elanga started against Villa at the weekend and he should keep his place in the team against Brentford. He seems to be undeterred by the fact he’s now playing for the first team – using his pace, skill and trickery to get the better of his opposition. This could be a good game for him, providing that he starts – he should have that in him given his energy. Mason Greenwood should start too – he needs to find his feet after a turbulent time at the club which has seen him not scoring a goal since the 1-1 draw with Young Boys in the final group stage match of the Champions League back in December. This match could be good for him.

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has been missing for the last two matches with a hip injury and it has been suggested, by none other than himself that he could be back in action on Wednesday evening. He is the clubs top scorer this season with 14 goals and three assists – which could have been so much better if the creativity behind him was as good as it should have been. With Fernandes in some kind of form after his brace on Saturday, having him playing behind Ronaldo could see sparks fly and United get a decent 90 minute performance under their belts before they face West Ham at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday.

Ronaldo has received some criticism since returning to United with some so-called supporters and pundits labelling him as the problem when it turns out that he is in fact one of the players who still has high standards and wants to achieve things with the club this season. The Premier League title is long out of the way for United, but cementing a place in the top four is the most they can achieve – not that missing out on Champions League football once again would be damaging – to anything other than the pockets of the Glazer’s. United should strive to get there though as failure has hung over this club for too long now and change is needed.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles; Jesse Lingard, Donny van de Beek; Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho

United can name nine substitutes on the bench, having named just eight on the bench on Saturday, with options lacking. With players expected to return to the squad this weekend, the options should increase – even if youth players have to be given the chance, providing they are available. Dean Henderson will most likely be on the bench again, seemingly needing a chance at the club to se if he still has what it takes to succeed – considering that Rangnick has told him that he will be staying this season, not leaving on loan during the January transfer window, which is a good thing as United might need him at some point.

In the defence, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Alex Telles could be called upon from the bench should they be needed. The defence requires improvement, so it could be necessary to make some changes, depending how well Brentford play and how well United do on the pitch, which can only be seen on the day. In midfield, Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek could be there should they be required, which may happen very late in the match – which will be frustrating for them. In attack, where United have more depth, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Jadon Sancho could all be selected, should United need to change their gameplay.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Backbone needed to beat Brentford – it is time for these players to show that they are committed!

Brentford -v- Manchester United

Premier League

Brentford Community Stadium, Brentford

Wednesday 19 January 2022, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Andre Marriner Assistants: Simon Long, Scott Ledger

Fourth Official: Andy Madley

VAR: Paul Tierney Assistant VAR: Neil Davies

Manchester United will travel to London to take on Brentford in the Premier League on Wednesday evening. It was a match that should have been played back in December 2021 but was postponed because of coronavirus cases at the club, along with the match against Brighton and Hove Albion which is still awaiting to be rescheduled. Under Ralf Rangnick, United have lost just one match, drawing three times and winning four times, scoring ten goals and conceding six. It has not been the best and it has shown that those who blamed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for everything were in fact incorrect once again.

It looks like United will have up to five players back in the squad for this match, plus the option of youth players being added to the squad, which could be needed to show some of the players that there is life after them at United and if they need to be replaced, that could happen. United need to find a backbone and use it as at this time, with no new signings likely at the club this month. United need to have a plan and get something sorted. The lack of concentration which results in their opposition scoring and changing the game needs to be nipped in the bud and this squad of individuals needs to become a team. If that does not happen the rebuild is bigger.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWLWDW

Aston Villa 2-2 D, Aston Villa 1-0 W, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 L, Burnley 3-1 W, Newcastle United 1-1 D, Norwich City 1-0 W

Goals: 14 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 7 – Bruno Fernandes, 5 – Mason Greenwood, 3 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Scott McTominay, Jadon Sancho, 1 – Own Goal, Harry Maguire, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek

Assists: 9 – Bruno Fernandes, 7 – Paul Pogba, 3 – Fred, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luke Shaw, 2 – Mason Greenwood, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic 1 – Own Goal, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Alex Telles, Raphael Varane

Brentford – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: LLWWLL

Liverpool 3-0 L, Southampton 4-1 L, Port Vale 4-1 W, Aston Villa 2-1 W, Manchester City 1-0 L, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 L

Goals: 7 – Bryan Mbeumo, 6 – Marcus Forss, Yoane Wissa, 5 – Ivan Toney, 3 – Sergi Canós, 2 – Rico Henry, Vitaly Janelt, 1 – Shandon Baptiste, Saman Ghoddos, Pontus Jansson, Mathias Jorgensen, Christian Nørgaard, Ethan Pinnock, Mads Roerslev

Assists: 4 – Saman Ghoddos, 3 – Ivan Toney, 2 – Sergi Canós, Marcus Forss, Mathias Jensen, Bryan Mbeumo, Mads Roerslev, 1 – Shandon Baptiste, Mads Bidstrup, Vitaly Janelt, Pontus Jansson, Christian Nørgaard, Ethan Pinnock, Dominic Thompson

Previous meetings with Brentford and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Brentford have not yet met in the history of the Premier League as this if the London clubs first time in the top flight of English football. In the history of the two clubs, United and Brentford have met a total of 13 times with United winning six times, drawing two times and losing five times. The last competitive fixture between the two sides was in the League Cup in 1975 with United winning the match 2-1 with goals from Sammy McIlroy and Lou Macari. The last time United lost to Brentford was in the FA Cup in 1938, a 2-0 defeat. The two sides met in pre-season in the summer, drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford.

Joshua Bohui is perhaps the only player to have played for both Brentford and United, although this was at youth level. The forward came through the ranks at Brentford signing from the Evolution Sports & Health Academy in 2011. In the summer of 2016, Bohui signed for United’s academy on a three-year contract. He progressed through the U18 and U23 sides for the club but at the end of his contract, he rejected (twice) the offer of a four-year contract at United. He has since played for NAC Breda, Colchester United, Waltham Abbey and Hayes & Yeading United. Max Haygarth is at Brentford B, leaving United’s academy in the summer.

Team News: Three players could be missing for United with five missing for Brentford. United could have five players returning to the squad with Brentford sweating on one.

Eric Bailly (AFCON), Paul Pogba (Thigh) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Illness) have been ruled out, although the latter could recover in time for the match with Brentford. Anthony Martial (Knee) has been out of action for some time and could be back in the squad against Brentford despite the fracas that was caused because of the explanation of him not being involved against Villa. Marcus Rashford (Thigh) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Hip Flexor) have 50% chances of featuring against Brentford. Both Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay are eligible to feature in this match after serving one-match suspensions in the 2-2 draw with Villa.

Julian Jeanvier (Knee), Charlie Goode (Thigh), David Raya Martin (Knee), Frank Onyeka (AFCON) and Joshua Dasilva (Groin/Hip) have all been ruled out for the foreseeable future. Mathias Jorgensen (Thigh) has a 25% chance of featuring against United. There is a chance that Brentford will be able to put together a much better midfield than United in this match with the London club having a good start to their debut Premier League season with United in with a good chance of this being the worst season in the Premier League in its history. After their 3-0 defeat to Liverpool at the weekend, Brentford will be seeking to return to winning ways.

Predicted Starting XI: Ronaldo, Elanga, Fernandes and Greenwood to lead the attack against Brentford with Fred and McTominay in the midfield. Jones should partner Varane in defence.

United need to find some strength, determination, discipline and the ability to win their matches. It looks like none of the problems at the club had been sorted out when you look at the state of the squad but it also allows you to see the glue that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in holding this team together. Post-Solskjaer, United have lost their identity. Granted, they have only been beaten once but they are still a team that smaller clubs will feast their eyes on and try and get a victory – just for the bragging rights, even if they end up being relegated. United have big problems and the owners are part of that and something needs to give and soon.

David De Gea will keep his place in goal. Whist Dean Henderson wants more minutes, he will need to show the manager why he deserves to start in training. In defence, Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw should play in the fullback roles with Phil Jones and Raphael Varane in the centre of defence. In midfield, Fred and Scott McTominay should both start, which could strengthen the midfield based on the Villa match. In the attacking areas, Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Elanga should all start as there was positives for all against Villa. Leading the attack should be Cristiano Ronaldo, providing he is injury free.

Match Prediction: United and Brentford last met competitively almost 47 years ago despite a pre-season match in the summer. United need to look hard at themselves and find what is needed to win this match.

This will be the first match between United and Brentford in the Premier League and apart from their match in pre-season, which ended 2-2 at Old Trafford, the two clubs have not met since 1975 when United beat them 2-1 in the League Cup at the Theatre of Dreams with Sammy McIlroy and Lou Macari scoring the goals. In the history of the two clubs, there has been a total of 13 matches played with United winning six, drawing two and Brentford winning five times. United have scored 28 goals against Brentford, with them scoring 23 goals – United keeping three clean sheets, Brentford keeping four.

After the 2-2 draw with Villa, United will need to get a win against Brentford and despite the fact their current run of matches has seen them win twice, losing four times, means nothing for United. Against Villa, United looked good for the first half, scoring a goal in the first six minutes and getting another late in the second half of the match. However, Villa scored twice in around five minutes as United collapsed with their midfield unable to control their opposition. United need to be careful of Brentford doing the same thing as they will be playing at home and will be seeking to get a good result.

Brentford 1-2 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

Ratings: Fernandes was top notch, De Gea and Elanga impressive; Sancho needs to work harder to start but United need to find a way to avert the errors

Manchester United drew 2-2 with Aston Villa at Villa Park in the Premier League. Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring for United in the sixth minute of the match with Villa’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez making a howler with the ball going through his legs. Fernandes put United 2-0 up in the 67th minute of the match with United crossing at the time. However, Jacob Ramsey got a goal back in the 77th minute with Philippe Coutinho equalising five minutes later. United nor Villa were able to find a winner to take all three points. It was better for United, but simple mistakes cost them once again.

United started in fine fettle against Villa, seemingly discovering something different since the two teams last met five days ago. Rangnick’s side pressed Villa from the start, winning a free-kick which Alex Telles took, taping the ball slightly with Bruno Fernandes then running into the box with the ball and shooting towards the keeper, who had an absolute howler with the ball ending up going into the back of the net, just like Massimo Taibi. Villa did not like the goal going in with the keeper upset after what happened. Mason Greenwood, Anthony Elanga and Edinson Cavani all looked in good form and up for the challenge.

United had seven shots on goal in the first half, four of those on target, scoring one goal, also having 55% of the ball. Villa, having just 45% of the ball, had just four shots on goal, three of which were on target with David De Gea once again stepping up to make the difference for Unite with his saves. Lucas Digne, on loan from Everton was the first player to be booked, seeing yellow in the 27th minute of the match – his fifth of the season but he will not face suspension as it was his first for Villa. Nemanja Matic saw yellow four minutes later (31) and will need to watch himself in the second half of the match.

United played a hard-fought 45 minute at Villa Park, going into the break in the lead with a lot of work to be done. Villa will be seeking to at least get an equaliser, knowing what they did against United on Monday evening, despite two goals being ruled out for a foul and an offside. Villa fans will be hoping to see Philippe Coutinho at some point in the second half, as the commentary team kept talking about as if he was some kind of superstar who has been pulling it out of the bag for the past three years. Villa have done well trying to get back into the match during the first half, but it just did not happen for them.

At the start of the second half, Villa made their first substitution after Ezri Konsa could not continue after suffering an injury in the first half. He was replaced by Kourtney Hause in the 46th minute of the match. United had done some good work at the start of the second half, mostly attacking play but they were unable to double their lead, which I feel is something they must do in order to get the win in this match, which is much-needed. In the 67th minute of the match, after a Villa error, Fred got the ball, ran towards the goal before playing it to Fernandes, who scored his second of the match and seventh of the season.

In the minutes before Fernandes scored the second goal of the match, he was fouled by Douglas Luis, who appeared to step on him, whether an accident or not, we shall see. The Portuguese magnifico seemed to be in some pain as he went off for treatment. Of course, he got his own back by scoring minutes later, putting United 2-0 up and with a great chance of winning this match. Villa brought Coutinho on in the 68th minute, replacing Morgan Sansom who looked dejected on the bench after coming off. Villa had some positive periods but they were still very much out of the match until Jacob Ramsey got a goal back in the 77th minute.

Rangnick made his first substitution in the 78th minute with Jadon Sancho replacing Anthony Elanga, who was a largely positive presence in the team against Villa. Just a minute before, Villa made their third substitution with Carney Chukwuemeka replacing Danny Ings, whose impact was not the best against United this time. Coutinho scored the equaliser for Villa in the 82nd minute of the match, unmarked running towards the goal. Raphaël Varane tried to cut the cross out but could not reach it before it connected with the Brazilian. De Gea was unable to make the save. United had more work to do in order to win this match.

Rangnick made a late double substitution in the 89th minute with Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard replacing Greenwood and Fernandes. There were four minutes added at the end of the match with United needing a goal to win the match. That goal never came but looking at the usual suspects on Twitter, who were so sure that a change of manager would change everything for United, it is quite satisfying watching them come up with excuse after excuse to avert them from any kind of responsibility for their clearly wrong opinions on everything. United will face Brentford on Wednesday, which is a must win match.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Impressive but ends up frustrated. Made some great saves to deny Buendia and Digne in the first half and got the better of Ramsey, before he eventually scored. Coutinho's goal was not something he could get to based on the closeness of the finish. From a win to a draw in five minutes will have been tough to take.

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20 Diogo Dalot

Good first half performance. He was the player that was targeted and Villa, largely through Digne, got the better of him time and time again. He will learn from it and prosper eventually.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Improvement. He was rusty against Villa on Monday, after a layoff. He had a largely positive match but for the two goals, he was not in his position, which seems to be a trend with him.

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19 Raphael Varane

Magnificent defender to have at United. It United had two of him, they would be in with a chance of retaining their leads. He was flawless for the majority of the match but in five late second half minutes, United succumbed and saw a win snatched away from them.

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27 Alex Telles

Villa got little against him. The Brazilian got an assist for Fernandes' first goal. Elanga did a lot of work ahead of him, which enabled him to concentrate on defending, which he did well with Villa not getting much past him.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Balanced. Gate United a safe defensive minded player to protect the defence, which seemed to work in the first half and for some of the second. He tired out in the end though - which is why United need a defensive minded midfielder sooner rather than later. He was booked for a cynical challenge, which seemed to stop him from getting heavily involved because he didn't want to be sent off.

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17 Fred

Mixed performance. When United were on top n the match, Fred seemed to be in high spirts but when United were poor, especially in the last 20-odd minutes, Fred was poor too. United need a midfielder that can drag his teammates through matches. He got an assist for Fernandes' second goal.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Constant threat. Villa saw a lot of him and he could have scored United's second goal in the first half by Martinez came out and made the save. His decision-making needs more improvement but he will get there. Replaced nu Van de Beek in the 89th minute.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

MOTM. Opened the scoring in the sixth minute, completed his brace in the 67th minute. Seems to be hated, even by some United supporters, who should be elated that he stepped up and grabbed this match by the neck.

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36 Anthony Elanga

Impressive. It is certainly a nod to the future. He is better than Rashford at this time and I was glad to see him start. His pace is alarming and he is determined enough to find his feet. He was replaced by Sancho in the 78th minute.

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21 Edinson Cavani

High work rate. The Uruguayan always puts in a shift and sometimes it does not work. He chased back time and time again. He is a player that should have the ball played to him in advanced areas more often but United's midfield is not good enough to control matches like that.

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Substitutes

25 Jadon Sancho

Replaced Elanga 78'. Clearly not doing enough to be picked as a starting player. Needs to find a way to break into the team and not make his signing look like another mistake - which has happened a lot at United in the past eight years.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Replaced Greenwood 89'. Could have scored the winner for United. Needs to be doing more in training to get into the starting XI. With the midfield depleted today, he should have been a shoe in, but was on the bench again.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced Fernandes 89'. Had five minute with added time and just did not seem to be interested. Doubt he will leave this month and hopefully United will not give him a new contract. It is time to let him leave.

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Goals: Jacob Ramsey 77′, Philippe Coutinho 82′; Bruno Fernandes 6′, 67′

Assists: Philippe Coutinho 77′, Jacob Ramsey 82′; Alex Telles 6′, Fred 67′

Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles; Matic, Fred; Greenwood (Van de Beek 89′), Fernandes (Lingard 89′), Elanga (Sancho 78′); Cavani

Substitutes Not Used: Heaton, Henderson; Jones, Maguire; Mata

Bookings: Lucas Digne 27′; Nemanja Matic 31′, Bruno Fernandes 46′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Cavani, Elanga, Greenwood and Fernandes start against Villa; Maguire, Jones, Van de Beek and Sancho on the bench

Manchester United will travel to Villa Park this evening where they will take on Aston Villa in the Premier League just five days after their 1-0 victory in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. Ralf Rangnick’s side did not manage to win convincingly but Scott McTominay’s header and Fred’s delivery was all that was needed to get the victory, despite the two disallowed goals for Villa, which Steven Gerrard will have moaned about, like the true Scouse whiner that he is. United need to be wining this match, getting some points on the board in the Premier League and more importantly, getting into some kind of form.

At the time of writing, United sit seventh in the Premier League with 31 points from 19 matches, winning nine times, drawing four times and losing six times. United have two matches in hand over most of the teams above them, the Brentford match will be played next week with the Brighton and Hove Albion match still to be rearranged. Villa sit 14th in the league with 22 points from 19 matches, winning seven, drawing once and losing 11 times – which is dire form for the club. Villa have lost their last three matches in all competitions and will need to start getting results or the could find themselves dragged into a relegation battle.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles;

Matic, Fred;

Greenwood, Fernandes, Elanga;

Cavani

Substitutes:

Heaton, Henderson; Jones, Maguire; Mata, Lingard, Van de Beek; Sancho

Aston Villa:

Martinez;

Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne;

Ramsey, Luiz, Sanson;

Watkins, Buendia, Ings

Substitutes:

Steer; Targett, Young, Hause, Hayden; Coutinho, Iroegbunam, Chukwuemeka; Archer

United and Villa have played a total of 53 matches in the history of the Premier League. United have won 37 matches, drawing 12 with Villa winning the remaining four matches. United have scored a total of 97 goals, winning seven penalties and scoring five of them. Villa have scored 32 goals, winning one penalty and scoring it. United have kept a total of 27 clean sheets with Villa keeping a total seven. The discipline between these two sides is not the best with United players being shown 77 yellow cards and three red cards whilst Villa players have been shown 74 yellow cards and four red cards. United need this win after the Wolves defeat.

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 his loan spell has now ended with him heading to Napoli for the rest of the season. 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.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-3-1-2] Jones and Varane to partner in defence? Ronaldo and Cavani leading the attack? Van de Beek, Fred and Sancho in midfield?

Manchester United will travel to Villa Park on Saturday evening where they will take on Aston Villa in the Premier League just five days after their 1-0 victory in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. Ralf Rangnick’s side did not manage to win convincingly but Scott McTominay’s header and Fred’s delivery was all that was needed to get the victory, despite the two disallowed goals for Villa, which Steven Gerrard will have moaned about, like the true Scouse whiner that he is. United need to be wining this match, getting some points on the board in the Premier League and more importantly, getting into some kind of form.

At the time of writing, United sit seventh in the Premier League with 31 points from 19 matches, winning nine times, drawing four times and losing six times. United have two matches in hand over most of the teams above them, the Brentford match will be played next week with the Brighton and Hove Albion match still to be rearranged. Villa sit 14th in the league with 22 points from 19 matches, winning seven, drawing once and losing 11 times – which is dire form for the club. Villa have lost their last three matches in all competitions and will need to start getting results or the could find themselves dragged into a relegation battle.

Previous meetings with Aston Villa and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villa have played a total of 53 matches in the history of the Premier League. United have won 37 matches, drawing 12 with Villa winning the remaining four matches. United have scored a total of 97 goals, winning seven penalties and scoring five of them. Villa have scored 32 goals, winning one penalty and scoring it. United have kept a total of 27 clean sheets with Villa keeping a total seven. The discipline between these two sides is not the best with United players being shown 77 yellow cards and three red cards whilst Villa players have been shown 74 yellow cards and four red cards. United need this win after the Wolves defeat.

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 his loan spell has now ended with him heading to Napoli for the rest of the season. 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 Villa Park on Saturday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is still the main player in the squad that is trying to do his best whilst accommodating his teammates mistakes. If the defence was much better, United would be getting the wins they need to break back into the top four this season. The Spanish goalkeeper has endured a tough time at United, especially last season when Dean Henderson stepped forward to challenge him. It seemed like it could have been the end of the road at United for De Gea, but this season he has been virtually faultless in goal and hopefully he will continue to strive to reach that goal as United look forward to finding their feet post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It is important for United to use the voices of the long-standing players at the club as those with weaker attitudes are found out and given the chance to turn things around, or be shipped out of the club. United need to get back on the road to the glory days as it will soon be a decade since they last won a league title and with well over £1 billion spent post-Sir Alex Ferguson, that is something of an embarrassment given that the people running the club have relatively no football knowledge or experience. Rangnick’s role after being the interim manager should give United a club above the playing level – perhaps it will all work out eventually?

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones, Raphael Varane, Alex Telles

United need to find a way of strengthening the defence this season, at least until the summer when there is some stability with a new permanent manager who will set up his new team. Harry Maguire has been injured for the last few matches, despite giving an interview about what has happened at the club which almost seems like some of the players are not interested in performing for the club – which is what it looks and feels like. Luke Shaw is suspended for this match, so he will get a little break. Diogo Dalot suffered a cut on Monday evening against Villa in the FA Cup, so there is a chance that he will not start this match.

If that is the case, Aaron Wan-Bissaka might get a chance to redeem himself after some poor performances and an injury layoff. On the left side, Alex Telles will get a chance to earn his place again after Shaw returned from an injury layoff himself. In the centre of the defence, Raphael Varane is a definite as he seems to ooze class and is calm in the centre of defence. Victor Lindelof can be problematic at times, so providing he is ready after suffering a knock which kept him out on Monday, Phil Jones could partner the Frenchman, having done so well together when he made his senior return from a a knee injury that lasted around two years.

Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Fred, Donny van de Beek

United’s midfield is perhaps the main problem area in the squad at present. Despite a number of players in these positions, it just does not seem to work all that well. Paul Pogba started the season in fine form but an injury sustained many months ago has derailed his season – which is probably his last at the club being that he is out of contract in the summer. It was suggested that it could be another four or five weeks before he even returns to training, so it seems unlikely that any reliance will be put upon him this season. Donny van de Beek has been fit for the majority of the season, yet he rarely gets picked – which may have to change this weekend.

With Scott McTominay suspended for this match, an a loss for United based on his form in the last few matches, Rangnick is going to have to make a gamble that does not result in Nemana Matic playing 90 minutes. Fred is likely to start in place of McTominay and Van de Beek should also start with Jadon Sancho, providing he has recovered from a thigh injury, being the third midfielder, although playing a wide position in the three, able to get forward on the attack and help defend when Villa are on the attack. Rangnick will probably stick with his 4-2-2-2 formation, but it seems to change throughout matches anyway, so who knows.

Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes has started to find his feet playing in the 4-2-2-2 formation, which does not suit him all that much being that he is regularly used in a wide position, which he is not used to. I think playing in a 4-3-1-2 formation suits him more and puts him in his favoured position just behind the strikers, where he is able to assist and score goals himself. The Portuguese magnifico has five goals and nine assists so far this season, scoring his last goal against Arsenal in the Premier League at the start of December, under the management of Michael Carrick. He needs to start getting back into the swing of things this season.

There is much debate about whether Fernandes can perform on the same stage as Cristiano Ronaldo, because they don’t see to click for Portugal, but the duo respect each other and can learn to play together at club level, which will benefit Portugal also. Fernandes was the stand out player last season and still has more goals and assists that most of his teammates going back two years when he signed for the club. It seems that Fernandes has become the player that we were told Paul Pogba was, which is quite funny as the Pogba supporters will tell you that Fernandes is the problem at the club, which seems very agenda driven. Pogba has been a failure.

Forwards: Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo was missing with a hip injury against Villa on Monday evening and should be back in action for the Premier League encounter at Villa Park. With 14 goals and three assists so far this season, he is United’s top scorer and the player most likely to score a goal, providing there is creativity, which is a major struggle at United this season, despite the number of creative players in the squad. United, at least on paper have one of the best squads in the league this season but the underperforming nature of the squad is the real problem. Ronaldo recently spoke out about the problems and he could drag his teammates out of the mire.

Edinson Cavani should start with Ronaldo. The duo can provide space for each other and on their day, they can be a handful for the defenders in the league. Cavani has just two goals so far this season, scoring 17 last season, and I am sure he will start performing at the same level as last season, aiming to get something from what will be his last season at the Old Trafford club. Some suggest that Mason Greenwood should be starting ahead of either Ronaldo or Cavani, but when he has played, he looks out of form and will need to work on returning his form in order to be started ahead of two legends of the game.

Substitutes: Tom Heaton; Victor Lindelof, Diogo Dalot; Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic; Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Amad Diallo, Anthony Elanga

United will be able to name nine substitutes on the bench, using just three of them in the Premier League. Rangnick had the chance to use five substitutes against Villa in the FA Cup on Monday evening, not using all of them for whatever reason. This time he has little choice. Dean Henderson was not on the bench on Monday and I think that will be the same for this match with former Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton taking his spot on the bench, as was the case on Monday. The defence could be depleted with just Victor Lindelof and Diogo Dalot on the bench, providing the latter is able to play following the laceration to his ankle.

In midfield, another area were there is a problem with players, Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic could be available, should they be needed. Of course, Rangnick could call on reinforcements from the academy to take positions on the bench to give him some more variety in terms of what players can offer from the bench. In attack, which is where United are particularly strong this season, not necessarily in form, the likes of Marcus Rashford, who needs to severely improve his form, Mason Greenwood, Amad Diallo, who could leave for a loan spell this month and Anthony Elanga, who should now be ahead of Rashford – could all be available.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Beating Villa is something that United need to be doing. No more apologies, just fight, desire and determination

Manchester United -v- Aston Villa

Premier League

Villa Park, Birmingham

Saturday 15 January 2022, KO 17:30 GMT

Referee: David Coote Assistants: Gary Beswick, Nick Hopton

Fourth Official: Chris Kavanagh

VAR: Mike Dean Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan

Manchester United will travel to Villa Park on Saturday evening where they will take on Aston Villa in the Premier League just five days after their 1-0 victory in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. Ralf Rangnick’s side did not manage to win convincingly but Scott McTominay’s header and Fred’s delivery was all that was needed to get the victory, despite the two disallowed goals for Villa, which Steven Gerrard will have moaned about, like the true Scouse whiner that he is. United need to be wining this match, getting some points on the board in the Premier League and more importantly, getting into some kind of form.

At the time of writing, United sit seventh in the Premier League with 31 points from 19 matches, winning nine times, drawing four times and losing six times. United have two matches in hand over most of the teams above them, the Brentford match will be played next week with the Brighton and Hove Albion match still to be rearranged. Villa sit 14th in the league with 22 points from 19 matches, winning seven, drawing once and losing 11 times – which is dire form for the club. Villa have lost their last three matches in all competitions and will need to start getting results or the could find themselves dragged into a relegation battle.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WLWDWD

Aston Villa 1-0 W, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 L, Burnley 3-1 W, Newcastle United 1-1 D, Norwich City 1-0 W, Young Boys 1-1 D

Goals: 14 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 5 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 3 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Scott McTominay, Jadon Sancho, 1 – Own Goal, Harry Maguire, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek

Assists: 9 – Bruno Fernandes, 7 – Paul Pogba, 3 – Cristiano Ronaldo, Luke Shaw, 2 – Fred, Mason Greenwood, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic 1 – Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Raphael Varane

Aston Villa – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: LLLWLW

Manchester United 1-0 L, Brentford 2-1 L, Chelsea 3-1 L, Norwich City 2-0 W, Liverpool 1-0 L, Leicester City 2-1 W

Goals: 5 – Ollie Watkins, 4 – Cameron Archer, Danny Ings, 3 – Anwar El Ghazi, John McGinn, 2 – Ezri Konsa Ngoyo, Jacob Ramsey, 1 – Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendía, Matthew Cash, Frédéric Guilbert, Kortney Hause, Tyrone Mings, Matt Targett

Assists: 3 – Emiliano Buendía, Anwar El Ghazi, Douglas Luiz, 2 – Leon Bailey, Danny Ings, John McGinn, Ashley Young, 1 – Matthew Cash, Carney Chukwuemeka, Frédéric Guilbert, Tyrone Mings, Jaden Philogene-Bidace, Matt Targett, Ollie Watkins

Previous meetings with Aston Villa and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villa have played a total of 53 matches in the history of the Premier League. United have won 37 matches, drawing 12 with Villa winning the remaining four matches. United have scored a total of 97 goals, winning seven penalties and scoring five of them. Villa have scored 32 goals, winning one penalty and scoring it. United have kept a total of 27 clean sheets with Villa keeping a total seven. The discipline between these two sides is not the best with United players being shown 77 yellow cards and three red cards whilst Villa players have been shown 74 yellow cards and four red cards. United need this win after the Wolves defeat.

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 his loan spell has now ended with him heading to Napoli for the rest of the season. 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.

Team News: McTominay and Shaw suspended for United, McGinn suspended for Villa. United will also be missing Pogba but sweating on Jones, Ronaldo, Sancho, Dalot and Martial.

Eric Bailly (AFCON) is missing because of his participation in the Africa Cup of Nations. Paul Pogba (Thigh) is the only injured player for this match. Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw are both suspended for this match, so Rangnick will need to find a solution. Phil Jones (Calf/Shin), Cristiano Ronaldo (Hip) and Jadon Sancho (Thigh) all missed Monday’s match and have a 75% chance to feature this weekend. Diogo Dalot (Ankle) suffered a laceration on Monday and has a 50% chance of featuring whilst Anthony Martial (Knee) has just a 25% chance of facing Villa. United will need to ensure they have the right balance in the squad for this match.

Bertrand Traore (AFCON) and Trézéguet (AFCON) have both been ruled out because of their participation in the Africa Cup of Nations. Leon Bailey (Thigh) and Marvelous Nakamba (Knee) have both been ruled out due to injury. John McGinn is suspended for this match due to amassing five yellow cards in the Premier League. Former United captain, Ashley Young (Ankle/Foot) is only at 50% fitness and could miss the match against his former club. Villa will have a similar squad to the one which faced United on Monday evening, which seemed to play very well against them. This is a threat that United will need to avert, or face another poor result.

Predicted Starting XI: Ronaldo and Cavani to lead the attack against Villa with Fernandes behind them? A midfield three of Van de Beek, Fred and Sancho could work? Jones and Varane in defence?

This match is important for United. Anything less than a win is going to make it harder to succeed this season. It is already going to be tough to break back into the top four and stay there as the clubs above United seem to be in much better form at this stage of the season. United’s players really owe something to the supporters as they have stuck by the club and this is the result of sticking up for the players – who are getting paid massive sums of money to play a game that they love. Tweeting after bad results has become tiresome and I would rather not read that as these players try to absolve blame and say how much better they will be next time.

It seems likely that David De Gea will keep his place in goal with Dean Henderson still waiting for a chance to show what he can do. In defence, with Luke Shaw suspended, Alex Telles could be back in at left-back with Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back with Diogo Dalot a doubt because of the cut he received on Monday evening. Raphaël Varane should keep his place but Phil Jones should get a chance to cement his place in the team. With Scott McTominay suspended, Donny van de Beek, Fred and Jadon Sancho should start in a three-man midfield with Bruno Fernandes playing ahead of them. Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani should lead the attack.

Match Prediction: Beating Villa is important for United. That said, the fight, desire and determination will need to return otherwise this club will continue the decline that has already been prevalent this season.

Earlier this season, United lost 1-0 to Villa in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Knocking Gerrard’d side out of the Emirates FA Cup has seen United head in the right direction after the shock defeat to Villa, who have lost 11 of their 19 matches played this season. United need to ensure they win this match but they are never easy at Villa Park. Last season, United won 2-1 at Old Trafford with Anthony Martial and a Bruno Fernandes penalty cancelling out Bertrand Traore’s equaliser. But this United side, at the moment in time, it not working as well as it should and the fight, desire and determination has long gone and needs restoring.

At Villa Park last season it was a 3-1 victory to United with Traore opening the scoring for the home side and Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani scoring to get three points in the bag, doing the double over the Birmingham club. This United will need to turn up against Villa on Saturday, ensuring that they get the win, don’t end up being overrun and stop the club from doing the double over them in the league this season, which would be a big form of embarrassment. United should be winning these matches easily, not allowing them to be overrun by the same club who tend to flirt with the Championship time and time again.

Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa

Written by John Walker

Manchester United players need to prioritise playing football over earning money…

Manchester United has many problems at this time. The Glazer’s are the biggest problem as the club has stagnated under their ownership. Granted, under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson during the Glazer ownership, which commenced in May 2005, the club won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, four League Cups, six FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Europa League and one FIFA Club World Cup.

Whilst many clubs would have loved that success, the stagnation is very much real at United.

Post-Ferguson, the club has now had five managers; David Moyes (2013-14), Louis van Gaal (2014-16), Jose Mourinho (2016-18), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (2018-21) and now Ralf Rangnick (2021-present).

Former players Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick also temporarily took the management role after the sackings of both Moyes and Solskjaer. It is sad to see United unable to find a manager to bring the glory days back – even though Solskjaer’s tenure seemed to be the closest, before everything went wrong.

Rangnick is only an interim manager and a new manager will be brought to the club in the summer with him taking up a consultancy role at the club once this has happened. Prior to signing for United, the 63-year-old was the manager of sports and development for Russian Premier League side Lokomotiv Moscow.

United will be linked with many permanent managers ranging from Erik ten Haag, who is currently at Ajax to Mauricio Pochettino, who is currently at Paris Saint-Germain. It will be a long season with these rumours.

The owners are parasites but the only other main constant in the problems at United is the players.

The Glazer’s have a reputation for taking money out of the club, not investing it in the club. This could be seen as early as the late Malcom Glazer’s purchase of the club with the family taking out loans to purchase United, eventually writing off the debt to the club, not them.

The family take dividends each year and half sold shares in the club, despite them being ones with lesser voting rights, so they continue to stay in control of the club. Old Trafford has suffered massively too with a lack of regeneration.

In addition to this, it seems that the Glazer’s and their stooge, Ed Woodward were interested in making even more money by plunging United into a European Super League which emerged in 2021 to a massive backlash of the supporters with protests that ended up cancelling a Premier League match with Liverpool at the Theatre of Dreams.

United and other Premier League clubs quickly pulled the plug in the ESL – but the owners of United will never be able to forget what they tried to do. More recently, the players, with many of them not being around from Ferguson to Rangnick, but similar things have happened before a manager was sacked.

Gone are the days that footballers are 100% professional. They are guilty of holding back in performances and ensuring that a manager is put under immense pressure, most of the time with the said manager defending the players and taking the blame themselves.

United seem to have done this from Moyes right the way through to the present. It is going to take a logo work and a lot of time to get this team challenging for the Premier League title and the other domestic and European honours. The Glazer’s have allowed this to happen, so they are the main constant that is culpable.

Standards have dropped but there are players who still have high standards for United.

Under the ownership of the Glazer’s, despite Ferguson winning 14 trophies between their ownership starting and him retiring, the standards soon started to drop. Moyes won the FA Community Shield, Van Gaal won the FA Cup and Mourinho won the FA Community Shield, League Cup and the Europa League. United have never challenge for the Premier League since Ferguson won it is in final season (2012/13).

They have come second in the league twice, third once, fourth once, fifth once sixth twice, finishing seventh once also – currently seventh at this stage of the 2021/22 season – which is not good enough based on the players at the club and the second-placed position obtained at the end of the 2020/21 season.

It would seem that the Glazer’s are happy for United to operate as a business first and foremost, playing football as a sideline. As long as the minimum is obtained, the money still comes in and there are still dividends to take each year – also shares can be sold to give the family a better income. United is being used as a cash cow.

More than £1 billion has been spent on players between Moyes and Solskjaer with a total of 39 players being signed by the club, with just 22 of those players still remaining at the club – although two players will be out of contract in the summer with three or more linked to exiting the club either during the January transfer window or in the summer.

Whilst the money has been available to get United back on track, it seems that the likes of Woodward and the Glazer’s felt that was all that was needed. In many cases, the wrong players were brought to the club as they did not fit in to the squad under the manager they were signed for, or just did not want to be at the club. It is shocking to see United in this predicament.

Whilst the standards for the club have dropped, which can also be said for the majority of the players – there are still players who have that winning mentality and want to achieve on the pitch. Others though, are happy plodding alone and collecting their wages each week – which is devastating to watch.

There does not seem to be much leadership from the players at United.

Harry Maguire is the captain at United with Cristiano Ronaldo, David De Gea, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Fernandes and even Scott McTominay, among others wearing the armband during matches that Maguire has not featured in. Maguire was a prominent player for United last season, ending the season with a calf injury which kept him out of the Europa League final against Villarreal, which was lost 11-10 on penalties. This season though, Maguire seems to be devoid of ability, often prone to many mistakes. He is not a leader of men either.

Some will see criticism as hate, but it is not. Criticism is something that everyone should be able to take, accept and learn from. Hate is something that is put out there to alienate someone. Whilst there is a lot of hate for these United players, including Maguire, that is not something I am guilty of. I criticise when I see something that should not be happening and everything that has happened to United in the past eight seasons (including this one) is not something I ever wanted to see or experience but I am thankful of it.

United’s players, especially on the pitch, seem to be void of all confidence, seemingly just getting through matches and not putting the best of themselves forward. There could be many reasons for this but leaders within the team should be putting a stop to that. It seems that players feel they can get their management companies to tweet apologies from them to the fans when they have let them down. Based on the wages they are being paid each week, that is weak coming from millionaires to the very supporters that have placed them in the position they are in by spending their hard-earned money on this football club.

It seems that these players are not thankful for that, as without the supporters – football means nothing. Now, whilst some supporters have turned their backs, seemingly saving their money instead of paying to see poor performance after poor performance, week after week, it is not something that is going to happed to 100% of the fanbase. But these players need to be more respectful of the cause and give 100% or as close as they can for each performance. Without that nothing is going to work for United.

What we would all like to see if each and evert Manchester United player stepping up and putting in a performance that we would be proud of. Under Solskjaer, especially after the coronavirus lockdown of 2020 which saw football postponed for around three months, United were at their best and swept apart their opposition more often than not. As the team was capable then, they should be capable now. But all we every get is pointless apologies and explanations for placate the masses, which does not work.

If you are in privileged position, such as playing for United, what you should be doing each time you represent the club is to stand up and be counted. Without that, the only way is failure and that would be even more devastating.

The rise of the youth player.

United’s DNA is something that the club is very proud of. The tradition of blooding youth players into the first team and having at least one academy player in every first team match for over 80 years is a record that other clubs will not get a chance to get close to, let alone break. At various periods in the history of the club, youth players have been added into the squad, some of them at the right time to start something good.

With what is happening at United, which more recently has seen many lacklustre matches with these ‘professional’ players most of the time looking like they have never played football, let alone with each other. It shows that something is happening behind the scenes which is causing this lack of professionalism. But supporters of the club who ‘stan’ a particular player tend to defend them to the death for anything, putting various narratives out there, specifically racism, to try and win Twitter battles against the critics.

It seems that you cannot criticise a player that puts little effort into life at United and if you happen to have a different skin colour, racism is the reason you became a critic. Look at Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial for instance. Both of the players have been criticised for laziness by managers, pundits and supporters but those who ‘stan’ them are quick to fire off allegations so their heroes are not are not called out for what they are.

United have some great young players coming through the ranks with Ethan Laird, Marc Jurado, Willy Kambwala, Björn Hardley, Álvaro Fernández, Isak Hansen-Aarøen, Dylan Levitt, James Garner, Charlie Savage, Charlie Wellens, Zidane Iqbal, Shola Shoretire, Noam Emeran, Dillon Hoogewerf, Hannibal Mejbri, Anthony Elanga, Tahith Chong, Joe Hugill and Charlie McNeill – to name a few.

Many of those names will not be ready to step straight into the first team, but some of them will. If the ‘professional’ players in the first team see this happen, straight away there will be a precedent set at the club which will raise the bar as these players promoted to the first team could take their positions away from them, leading to uncertainty for them whether it be them sitting on the bench or not involved in matches at all.

Changes are needed at Manchester United and a lot of that is down to the players who are mostly full internationals that have been putting very poor performances into their participation at the club more more than the past few weeks – for some, this goes back a long time. It is like they don’t accept criticism from their manager, the coaches or anyone else at the club and that is pathetic, if in fact it is correct.

Written by John Walker

Ratings: McTominay led United into the fourth round of the FA Cup; De Gea and Varane in good form in the victory – Rashford poor but not the only one

Manchester United beat Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa 1-0 in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford, earning a fourth round place in which they will face Middlesbrough at Old Trafford next month. Scott McTominay opened the scoring in the eighth minute of the match after Fred played the ball into the box. It was a rather uninspiring victory for United, keeping a clean sheet even though Villa scored twice with one goal disallowed for a foul in the run up to the goal, the other being an offside goal. Gerrard will be annoyed with the result, but for him it was deserved. Villa will face United again in five days time.

United did not start all that brightly against Villa with Steven Gerrard’s side quickly advancing and trying to cause damage against a side with one of the weakest defences in the Premier League. United seem to panic when their opposition is attacking – and that tends to cause mistakes to happen with United conceding goals that should not be conceded. However, that said, United averted any danger – although no through good defending, it was probably luck. In the eighth minute of the match, Fred played the ball into the box from a distance, met Scott McTominay who headed straight into the back of the net to put United ahead.

It was Villa who had most of the possession in the first half of the match but it was United who were doing so much more with the ball. They had more shots and just looked better in Villa’s final third – which was a great start. Gerrard won’t be at fault though as he’s that way inclined. He would probably get a mate to take the blame. United had a fair few chances in the second half, which they should have really taken as it could be something to look back on later in the match, if it did not go their way. The winner will face Middlesbrough at home in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup this season and Gerrard will want that match.

Villa did have a chance on goal but the ball his the inside of the crossbar, which was a shock for United. It was not meant to be for Villa though. It seemed that Diogo Dalot’s night was at an end in the first half too after he received a cut to the ankle, but after a brief time on the sidelines, he was able to continue – to the annoyance of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was going to replace the Portuguese right-back. United were still in the lead at the break, which would have given them something to build on for the second half, but it would also restore confidence, especially in the dressing room during the break.

There were no changes at the start of the second half for either team. Villa seemed more determined to get something from this match from the start of the half, and just five minutes into the half, Danny Ings looked to have scored the equaliser. It was a free-kick taken by John McGinn with the ball staying in the air for some time. Edinson Cavani was running into the box, keeping up with Ezri Konsa and it seemed he was fouled in the box. Konsa then played the ball into the middle, just missing Ollie Watkins and eventually coming off Ings’ thigh and into the back of the net. VAR was going to decide whether it was a goal or not.

The referee had to look at the goal, eventually deciding that it was not a goal because of the foul on Cavani. No card was issued and Villa seemed lucky that nothing further happened. Tempers were flaring after that with Villa more determined to get something from the match and it not (yet) working for them. Fred was United’s first player to be booked in the 65th minute of the match, with Jacob Ramsey booked in the 11th minute of the match. United still had not improved and were seemingly inviting Villa on them, which was putting United under a lot of pressure. In the next few minutes, both Luke Shaw and Dalot were both booked.

Rangnick made his first substitution in the 72nd minute of the match with Donny van de Beek replacing Cavani, which is something that Villa would have been happy with. United had a great chance after the substitution with Mason Greenwood doing the hard work and Rashford letting the attack down, seemingly not wanting to score a simple goal. The England forward really needs to start taking his chances and finding some form or he will end up being kept out of the team more often. United desperately need a second goal to win this match or they could be playing extra time if Villa get a late goal and nobody wants that.

A double substitution was made by United with around five minutes of normal time remaining. Jesse Lingard and Anthony Elanga replaced Bruno Fernandes and Rashford as United headed into added time. Villa made another change too. There were six minutes of added time that United needed to weather to get into the fourth round of the FA Cup. It was a largely uninspiring match, but that has been the case of late and it does not seem that United will be changing that any time soon. United dug deep and got the win they wanted, not necessarily the win that they deserved. United face Villa again in five days time, this time at Villa Park.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Resurgent. Faced little opposition in the first half but was there to form a guard on the goal when needed. Got the better of a Cash attempt on goal. Will be happy with the clean sheet, despite the disallowed goals for Villa.

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20 Diogo Dalot

Flair. The Portuguese right-back marauding forward whenever United were on the attack. Got a nasty cut to his ankle and seemed to have ended his evening there, but he returned minutes later. Continued to do his bit throughout the match.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Mistake prone. Granted, he does seem to be semi-decent most of the time but he always has a mistake in him, which is a problem in this defence. He can be a calamity or a hero. He seemed to weather this storm against Villa but resurgence is needed at this club in order to make the waves towards the trophies. He seemed a little calmer in the second half.

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19 Raphael Varane

Assured and stable. Added the grit to this United defence. Lindelof was his third defensive partner in the last three matches. There was some testing times for the Frenchman but overall it was a classy performance for him.

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23 Luke Shaw

Attacking prowess. Showed more aggression than he did against Wolves and seemed to get further forward, supporting the United attack. Booked in the second half with United seeing three players booked in five second half minutes.

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17 Fred

Indifferent. Seemed to be at the top of his game one minute, playing the ball into the box and meeting McTominay's head, which scored the opening goal. The next minute he was losing the ball and playing bad passes. He was booked for a challenge in the second half.

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39 Scott McTominay

Determined. The Scotland international was once again determined to guide United to a win, scoring a header in the eighth minute of the match

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Incisive and creative. Seemed to have improved in the areas that he's most dangerous. Still did not get a goal or an assist but it is a good start, considering the change of formation and tactics. This could be the start of something good for the Portuguese magnifico. Replaced by Lingard in the 85th minute.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Uninspiring. The poor form continued for Rashford. He looked unable to do the simplest of things some of the time. He missed a good chance to either get a goal, or contest for one by ball watching rather than looking to make the difference. Seemed like he was not enjoying football anymore. Needs to put in a shift in order to change minds as his efforts for the club are in the past and changes are needed by the club. Replaced by Elanga in the 86th minute, which should have happened at least 20 minutes sooner.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Inconsistency. It is a shame to see Greenwood in this form. He has excelled agains Villa in the not too distant past but seemed unable to get into this match. Hopefully he can shake that poor form.

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21 Edinson Cavani

A handful. The Uruguayan was a thorn in Villa's side in this match. He was regularly testing the defence and played a part in Villa's equaliser, being fouled on the edge of United's area which resulted in the goal being disallowed. He seemed to play better without Ronaldo in the team. Cavani was replaced by Van de Beek in the 72nd minute of the match.

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Substitutes

34 Donny van de Beek

Replaced Cavani 72'. Needs to find himself. Got some rare minutes on the pitch but seemed devoid of confidence and ability to change the game.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced Fernandes 85'. Fresh legs. Did little but is now cup-tied should he depart the club this month.

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36 Anthony Elanga

Replaced Rashford 86'. A youthful look to the future. Should have had more time on the pitch. His pace can cause problems for most teams. Should be ahead of Rashford now.

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Goals: Scott McTominay 8′

Assists: Fred 8′

Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Fernandes (Lingard 85′), Rashford (Elanga 86′); Greenwood, Cavani (Van de Beek 72′)

Substitutes Not Used: Heaton; Telles, Wan-Bissaka; Mata, Matic; Amad

Bookings: Fred 65′, Luke Shaw 68′, Diogo Dalot 70′; Jacob Ramsey 11′

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW