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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

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

Confirmed XI: Greenwood and Cavani lead United’s attack against Villa; Ronaldo missing; Amad and Elanga on the bench

Manchester United welcome Aston Villa to Old Trafford in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup this evening. It will be the first time that Steven Gerrard will manage a team at the Theatre of Dreams and the first time that United will have played in a week, following their dreadful defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers almost a week ago. United need to kick back and earn their place in the fourth round of the competition, or face yet more discontent from the supporters. It is time to stand up and be counted, not sit there sulking and expect sympathy because you have to go home from work in the dark and train more.

United have a big problem at the club. There seems to be a distinct lack of ambition at the club which can only come from the top. High wages are paid to players who have no belief in the club nor care about the club. That is what it looks like. There is so much money in this game now that mediocre players are earning scandalous sums of money to kick a ball around a football pitch, seemingly thinking that they will be praised like gods off the pitch, which is never going to be the case. In the not too distant future, if could be a case of what these players had and lost down to their own selfishness. It is time to find a backbone and do something.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Shaw;

Fred, McTominay;

Fernandes, Rashford;

Greenwood, Cavani

Substitutes:

Heaton; Telles, Wan-Bissaka; Mata, Lingard, Matic, Van de Beek; Amad, Elanga

Aston Villa:

Martinez;

Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett;

McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey;

Buendia;

Ings, Watkins

Substitutes:

Steer, Sinisalo, Sanson, El Ghazi, Hause, Philogene-Bidace, Chukwuemeka, Archer, Iroegbunam

United and Villa have played a total of 12 matches in the history of the FA Cup. United have won ten matches with Villa winning the remaining three matches. United have scored a total of 29 goals. Villa have scored 14 goals. United have kept a total of three clean sheets with Villa keeping a total none in these matches. This will be a big match for United – coming off the back of a defeat to Wolves in their last Premier League match, also with the fact that Villa have already beaten them 1-0 in the league this season – which was played at Old Trafford on the 25 September 2021. Rangnick will need to get this team performing – which will be tough.

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 as assistant manager.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-3-1-2] Ronaldo, Cavani and Fernandes to lead the attack; creativity needs to come and perhaps Sancho, McTominay and Van de Beek can provide that?

Manchester United welcome Aston Villa to Old Trafford in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup on Monday evening. It will be the first time that Steven Gerrard will manage a team at the Theatre of Dreams and the first time that United will have played in a week, following their dreadful defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers almost a week ago. United need to kick back and earn their place in the fourth round of the competition, or face yet more discontent from the supporters. It is time to stand up and be counted, not sit there sulking and expect sympathy because you have to go home from work in the dark and train more.

United have a big problem at the club. There seems to be a distinct lack of ambition at the club which can only come from the top. High wages are paid to players who have no belief in the club nor care about the club. That is what it looks like. There is so much money in this game now that mediocre players are earning scandalous sums of money to kick a ball around a football pitch, seemingly thinking that they will be praised like gods off the pitch, which is never going to be the case. In the not too distant future, if could be a case of what these players had and lost down to their own selfishness. It is time to find a backbone and do something.

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

United and Villa have played a total of 12 matches in the history of the FA Cup. United have won ten matches with Villa winning the remaining three matches. United have scored a total of 29 goals. Villa have scored 14 goals. United have kept a total of three clean sheets with Villa keeping a total none in these matches. This will be a big match for United – coming off the back of a defeat to Wolves in their last Premier League match, also with the fact that Villa have already beaten them 1-0 in the league this season – which was played at Old Trafford on the 25 September 2021. Rangnick will need to get this team performing – which will be tough.

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 as assistant manager.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Aston Villa in the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford on Monday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is the in form goalkeeper at United this season. Grated, Dean Henderson may need more matches, he will have to impress the manager in training. As he’s has just a few appearances the season, it seems more likely to stick with De Gea as there is enough time between matches to rest. If United did not have De Gea this season, they would be in a much worse position than they are now – and that would be even more devastating for the supporters of the club. The Spanish goalkeeper has made many superb saves to deny the opposition from getting more against United. If the defence were as good as him, it would be fine.

De Gea will be determined for United to bounce back from that defeat to Wolves and that is something that United will need to do to appease the manager and the supporters. These players have let United down time and time again and if there are problems in the dressing room, which Harry Maguire seems to suggest is not the case, they need to be ironed out. United cannot continue limping from match to match with supporters expecting them to turn a corner, only to end up with them being on the wrong road and nowhere near turning a corner. This has continued for nine seasons post-Sir Alex Ferguson – it cannot continue any longer.

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

United’s defence needs to find stability. I wrote something similar ahead of every match and it never really seems to change. United have some players in this group that should be so much better than they have been and some world class players, or at least players who should be regarded as such – but seem to be struggling. Against Villa, Diogo Dalot should occupy the right-back position as he is in a much better position that Aaron Wan-Bissaka this season and form seems to have hit him and missed the latter. Dalot is much better in an attacking sense, which is the attacking stability United need to grasp from the back.

At left-back, Luke Shaw should start this match being that he is suspended for the clash with Villa in the Premier League just five days later. If Shaw can find the form he had shown last season, it will go a long way in setting United up to achieve something – but the season so far has established that the Premier League title will not be something that United challenges for – unless there is a miracle. Raphael Varane should keep his place in the centre of defence, coming back from an injury he will need all the minutes he can get to get back into the swing of things. With Harry Maguire a doubt, Phil Jones should start alongside the Frenchman.

Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek

United’s midfield should be much better than it is. There is a big lack of creativity which results in the forward struggling to create things themselves, which adds to the frustration. The 4-2-2-2 formation is not something that is working for United now, even though it is a 4-4-2 formation with wingers. There is something that Rangnick wants these players to present on the pitch which is a struggle – maybe in time with a few new additions, things will change. A three-man midfield could establish some creativity but will lose some width which is not the best but something needs to give for United.

Jadon Sancho could play a wide midfield role, getting forward when United are on the attack and helping in the midfield when they are on the receiving end. It could work for United. Scott McTominay could offer a kind of defensive role, which he has done under Jose Mourinho, not that it is a solution but it is a way to deliver his energy and determination which has shown through recently. He will be suspended like Shaw in this fixture in the Premier League just five days later, so will get a rest until the 22 January. Donny van de Beek could start in the other midfield place, offering some offensive play and a chance to get his foot in the door.

Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes is wasted in the 4-2-2-2 formation as largely he is in a wide position, which does not work to his strengths. In this formation, he would operate just behind the forwards, with will also result in a distinct lack of width but something that could work for United. If all goes well, the fullbacks should provide width going forward with the three-man midfield covering for them if they get caught tracking back to their positions from an attacking play. This is how a team should be working, in my opinion anyway. Fernandes is the player that can find the creativity coming from the midfield towards the attacking players.

This season, the Portuguese magnifico, who is of the interest of Barcelona once again, according to the media, which probably means that is a lie, again, has five goals and nine assists in all competitions so far this season and only Cristiano Ronaldo is ahead of him based on goals scored (14). He has been out of form recently and has been left dejected when things do not go his way, but who can blame him when he has suffered just like we have. There are so many fan cammers who think that just like Ronaldo, Fernandes is a problem for United. If the pair of them left the club in the not too distant future, the same people would be moaning about that.

Forwards: Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo

There have been suggestions that both Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani should not be playing on the same team together. But I think that is pretty lame to suggest. When it starts to work, they will be undroppable. Granted, more time needs to ge given to the likes of Mason Greenwood, who is just as good up front, but is well out of form at this time. Ronaldo has 14 goals and three assists so far this season and despite showing himself as a frustrated figure, he has been labelled by some as the problem at the club. The only thing he is guilty of is seeing how far United have fallen and wanting to raise the game of the team.

Cavani has been injured for most of the season so far and has made his return in the last few matches. He has two goals to his name so far and this seems to be his final season at the club, so he will be seeking to raise his form and get the goals and assists coming. Last season, he was a great striker and got himself 17 goals and six assists in all competitions, so match that will be a target, beating that would be so much better. If the duo ca work well together, which we know they can United will be in good hands. The creativity is the main problem at the club this season and if United and Rangnick can overcome that, there will be something to achieve.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Jesse Lingard, Fred; Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Elanga

Nine substitutes can be named on the bench in the FA Cup this season, much like the Premier League but a total of five can be used throughout the match, which will help Rangnick, providing he can fine at least 16 players in his squad who are going to put in a performance. I would expect Dean Henderson to be on the bench in this match with De Gea the player in form. Rangnick will need to sweat on his defence though as there is a chance that Harry Maguire will miss this match too. In the event that he does, Phil Jones could start and the likes of Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles and Aaron Wan-Bissaka could be on the bench.

In midfield, Jesse Lingard and Fred could add something to the squad, should they be needed. Nemanja Matic has played in the last two matches and should be rested as he will be needed in the Premier League match against Villa as McTominay will be suspended from that match after receiving five yellow cards within the first 19 matches of the season. In attack, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga could all be on the bench to provide something at some point in the match should the likes of Ronaldo, Cavani and Sancho all fall short in offering United something – but the creativity will need to be at a high level for this to happen.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Manchester United need to stand up and be counted in order to beat Aston Villa – players moaning never gets results, just more bad feeling

Manchester United -v- Aston Villa

Emirates FA Cup

Old Trafford, Manchester

Monday 10 January 2022, KO 19:55 GMT

Referee: Michael Oliver Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett

Fourth Official: Andrew Madley

VAR: Darren England Assistant VAR: Harry Lennard

Manchester United welcome Aston Villa to Old Trafford in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup on Monday evening. It will be the first time that Steven Gerrard will manage a team at the Theatre of Dreams and the first time that United will have played in a week, following their dreadful defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers almost a week ago. United need to kick back and earn their place in the fourth round of the competition, or face yet more discontent from the supporters. It is time to stand up and be counted, not sit there sulking and expect sympathy because you have to go home from work in the dark and train more.

United have a big problem at the club. There seems to be a distinct lack of ambition at the club which can only come from the top. High wages are paid to players who have no belief in the club nor care about the club. That is what it looks like. There is so much money in this game now that mediocre players are earning scandalous sums of money to kick a ball around a football pitch, seemingly thinking that they will be praised like gods off the pitch, which is never going to be the case. In the not too distant future, if could be a case of what these players had and lost down to their own selfishness. It is time to find a backbone and do something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 12 matches in the history of the FA Cup. United have won ten matches with Villa winning the remaining three matches. United have scored a total of 29 goals. Villa have scored 14 goals. United have kept a total of three clean sheets with Villa keeping a total none in these matches. This will be a big match for United – coming off the back of a defeat to Wolves in their last Premier League match, also with the fact that Villa have already beaten them 1-0 in the league this season – which was played at Old Trafford on the 25 September 2021. Rangnick will need to get this team performing – which will be tough.

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 as assistant manager.

Team News: Bailly and Pogba missing for United. Maguire still a doubt but Lindelof could return. Traore, Trezeguet both missing for Villa because of AFCON whilst Bailey and Nakamba missing due to injury.

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. Victor Lindelof (Coronavirus) will be eligible to play, providing he is fit enough to be involved. Harry Maguire (Chest/Abdominal) missed the last match due to injury and could well be missing from this one too. Anthony Martial (Knee) has a 75% chance of featuring in this match, but he will need to show something in training to her considered, in my opinion. Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay were booked in their last league match, and will be suspended against Villa in the league but eligible to play 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. Tyrone Mings and John McGinn are both eligible to play in this match against United following a suspension for five yellow cards in the Premier League. Ollie Watkins (Illness) is back in contention to face United with 100% fitness whilst former United player, Ashley Young (Ankle/Foot) is only at 50% fitness and could miss the match against his former club. We shall see what Monday brings in relation to that.

Predicted Starting XI: Cavani and Ronaldo with Fernandes in behind them against Villa? Three-man midfield with Sancho, McTominay and Van de Beek? Jones to keep his place in defence?

Rangnick’s United need to find their feet. Whilst results have been largely positive, at least before the Wolves defeat, the performances have not been the best. The 3-1 victory over Burnley was the best result despite the overall performance being poor. That seems to be the problem with United. Some of the players seem to be blaming others whilst hiding themselves and not standing up and changing anything. The players, board room and owners have been the main constant since Sir Alex Ferguson retired but only the managers have been blamed. The players have continued to be praised mostly, which is wrong.

Against Villa, United will need to come back from a defeat to Wolves. David De Gea should be starting as his form has been good, despite conceding some goals. Dean Henderson would have conceded goals too as United’s defence has not been capable of dealing with threats for whatever reason. Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw should all start this match. A three-man midfield of Jadon Sancho, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek could worth to add creativity with Bruno Fernandes playing just being Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani. This works on paper but could it work on the football pitch?

Match Prediction: United have lacked inspiration this season and the fact they have not looked like a good team is very telling. Some players will need to stand up and be counted, or they will get left behind.

United have not been good enough this season, which is why they will face a massive struggle to break into the top four in the Premier League. But in this match, it is a one off to earn a place in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup, which will give United a good enough chance of winning silverware this season – but only if they are good enough on the day – which remains to be seen. Villa have already beaten them at Old Trafford this season, so they will be confident of doing that again, especially with the signing of Philippe Coutinho, who will improve their attacking play and could be an outlet of a goal or two – if he still has the legs for it in England.

United seem to have lost their spirit, desire, determination and fight, which is a major problem that needs to be resolved. Whilst the result came against Burnley in the 3-1 victory, the performance was questionable and United seemed to struggle in the second half, which is a major problem for United. The players will need to stand up and be counted, or at some stage they will get left behind and will be known as another player that did not fulfil their promise at United, which post-Ferguson is a long list at this time. These footballers need to go back to basics and understand the culture showing themselves as role models not prima donnas.

Manchester United 1-0 Aston Villa

Written by John Walker

Axel Tuanzebe: Where do we go from here?

At the beginning of the 2019/20 season, Manchester United fans were excited to see what Academy graduate Axel Tuanzebe could bring to their defence after being promoted to the first team squad following on from an extremely impressive season on loan in the Championship at Aston Villa. 

Since then, however, injuries and the signing of defenders ahead of him in the pecking order have meant that Tuanzebe has been unable to put a run of games together in a United shirt, leading to the now 24-year-old being sent on loan this season once again to Aston Villa, who are now in the Premier League, to get much needed playing time. So where does this leave the defender? 

It is fair to say that over two seasons (2019/20 and 2020/21) Tuanzebe had more positive appearances in a United shirt than he did negative. His performance against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last season stands out in memory, after almost 10 months on the side-lines through various injuries Tuanzebe’s first game back would be away from Old Trafford against one of the best players in the world, Kylian Mbappe. 

However, the defender held his own and showed tremendous ability, after the game Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the manager at the time, stated‘Axel’s a tremendous defender, a great leader. He’s come through the Academy, and we’ve known for years that he’s going to be a top player for us’, it felt like a real turning point in the defenders career. 

However, the defender did not push on after this performance, only making 19 appearances across all competitions for United that season. During the season he only started four games in the league, with the partnership of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf earning the trust of the manager. The season prior, 2019/20, the defender only made 11 appearances across all competitions for United in a season that was hampered by three separate injuries. This unfortunately meant that after his breakthrough season on loan, Tuanzebe’s career had stalled. 

While there can be no doubt about the defender’s ability, it must be noted that, at present, there are four defenders ahead of him in the pecking order due to their ability and experience at the top level: Maguire, Raphael Varane, Lindelöf and Eric Bailly. 

It could be argued that on his best form Tuanzebe is picked above Bailly and possibly Lindelöf due to his technical ability, however, he simply has not shown his consistency at the highest level to be considered an instant starter at a club like United. A decent season at fellow Premier League club Aston Villa may change that. 

So far, Tuanzebe has only made nine appearances for Villa this season across all competitions. Out of 14 Premier League games this season, he has only started six, even more worryingly, since the dismissal of Dean Smith as manager on the 7 November, as reported by BBC Sport, Tuanzebe has not played a single minute for Aston Villa. 

This could perhaps show that new manager Steven Gerrard is wanting to work with players that are not on loan as can sometimes be the case, or that he has fallen out of favour entirely. 

United will be hoping that over the Christmas period Tuanzebe can play himself into favour with the new manager, as the main reason he is on loan at the club is to play regular minutes at the top level. 

If he does not manage to do so, the club may think of recalling the defender back from loan and loaning him elsewhere or holding on to him as a back up option for new manager Ralf Rangnick, who may well give Tuanzebe more opportunities. 

For now, however, it looks as though the defender has a tough time ahead of him under new management, which could possibly signal the beginning of the end for the Academy graduate at his boyhood club. 

Fans will keep the faith that the prospect can break through to the first team as he is one of their own, however, at the age of 24, Tuanzebe and those around him need to decide what the best move is for the player, which may well be away from United for good. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

copyright: JW