Match Preview: Manchester United vs Aston Villa

Manchester United host Villa at Old Trafford this weekend and they will surely be aiming to build up upon their excellent start to the 2021/22 Premier League season. The Red Devils are now in third place in the table, tied on points with leaders Chelsea, while Villa are in tenth place, with seven points from their first five games.

It has been a decent Premier League campaign so far for the Red Devils. United have picked up thirteen out of the fifteen available points in five matchdays. In comparison to last season, United have seen major improvement in terms of points as they had just seven points after five games. United have displayed a lot more cohesion this season and it shows how far this team has come from its dark days.

It hasn’t been straightforward so far, but the Red Devils are beginning to display a knack for grabbing critical points even when they aren’t at their best. Last weekend’s match versus West Ham United was a perfect example of the Premier League’s rush of adrenaline character.

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So far this season, Dean Smith’s team has alternated between amazing and lackluster performances. However, a 3-0 thrashing of Everton in their most recent Premier League match should instill optimism in them heading into the game against Manchester United. In their EFL Cup match against Chelsea, they gave it their all but lost on penalties.

Smith’s side, who placed 11th in the Premier League last season, will be confident that they can cause Man United problems this weekend, but Villa have only won one among their 45 Premier League matches over United, failing 33 times in the process.

In addition, United have claimed 18 of their last 21 home league matches against Villa, who haven’t beaten United in any tournament since a 1-0 win at Old Trafford in December 2009.

A Form Guide

Man United were dumped out of the EFL Cup by West Ham United on Wednesday night, and the English titans were defeated 2-1 by Young Boys in their Champions League group-opener on September 14, indicating that the side hasn’t quite dominated the cup tournaments this season.

Last Saturday, Jesse Lingard sent Man United up 2-1 at the London Stadium before West Ham United skipper Mark Noble had a penalty denied by David de Gea, and the 20-time English champions will now be hoping for their third consecutive Premier League win this weekend.

Villa, on the other hand, have seen a shaky start to the 2021-22 Premier League season, winning a couple, drawing one, and losing two of their five games for a total of seven points, putting them in tenth place in the table.

Dean Smith’s team, like Man United, were booted out of the EFL Cup on Wednesday night, succumbing on penalties at Stamford Bridge following a 1-1 stalemate with Chelsea.

Villa previously fell 3-0 to Chelsea in the Premier League on September 11, but they were in good shape against Everton last weekend, winning 3-0, with Matty Cash and Leon Bailey on the scoreboard for the hosts, who now face Man United and Tottenham Hotspur on the road.

Team News

Man United will be missing Marcus Rashford and Amad Diallo on Saturday due to injuries, while Edinson Cavani will have to fight for a starting spot after only recently returning to first-team training. Solskjaer is set to implement 11 alterations from the EFL Cup loss against West Ham, and it would not be surprising to see an identical line-up as against the Hammers last week in the league.

Undoubtedly, Paul Pogba will play on the left flank, with Scott McTominay and Fred in midfield, and Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes will be deployed in the spaces supporting Cristiano Ronaldo. Jadon Sancho has struggled to generate an impact at Old Trafford in his early days, and the England international is anticipated to be on the bench until the latter stages of the game against Smith’s men.

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Axel Tuanzebe is ineligible to play against his parent side, whereas Bailey, Trezeguet, Keinan Davis, and Morgan Sanson are all injured and will miss the game at Old Trafford. Matt Targett is also doubtful owing to an abductor issue, although John McGinn has been cleared to play after recovering from a head injury.

The guests could play in a 3-5-2 shape once more, with Kortney Hause replacing Tuanzebe, and ex Man United skipper Ashley Young starting if Targett is unavailable. Villa will have more than enough ammunition, with Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins expected to start up front, suggesting Emiliano Buendia may have to settle for an appearance off the bench.

Ones to Watch

If Villa want to keep United at bay, they will have to somehow manage to keep Cristiano Ronaldo silent in some way. What a start to life he has had since returning to Old Trafford after 12 years. The 36-year-old seems to defy his age over and over again.

Ronaldo has scored in each of United’s games where he has been included in the starting lineup and has one of the best attacking numbers in the league despite missing out on the first two games of the season. It seems like a tough job for Villa to pick up a clean sheet as the Portuguese will once again spearhead United’s attacking moves, and once he gets his chance, he will not fail to deliver.

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Aston Villa’s player to watch out for is Ollie Watkins. Due to an injury-plagued start to his season, the Englishman has just recently returned to Villa’s starting lineup and has started only two games this season. He was excellent in his first start this season when Villa played Chelsea on September 11. It was a game where Villa, with the help of Watkins, were a constant threat and the scoreline was not an accurate representation of Watkins’ and Villa’s performances that night.

He might not have had a shot at Everton’s goal in the Villians’ 3-0 victory at Villa Park last weekend, but the 25-year-old is surely a menace that requires close attention from United’s defense.

Not the time to put our heads down

Notwithstanding their current form in the Premier League, United have had a few cup results that may seem like nothing to be proud of. The Red Devils were disgraced in a 2-1 away loss against Young Boys in the Champions League in a game where they would have hoped for a result.

United also narrowly lost 1-0 to West Ham in the EFL Cup, which seemed like a match where the Red Devils performed extremely well and could have easily breezed through had they finished their chances. The game was dominated by United and if it wasn’t for individual mistakes, they would have definitely gone through to the next round of the cup.

However, the positives in this current United team outweigh the negatives. One can easily notice the effective transformation in this team and although they might seem like a long way from a team that can challenge for trophies, United are a lot closer to one that might surprise everyone by going all the way.

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