Match Preview: Aston Villa vs Manchester United

Fresh from beating Aston Villa in the FA Cup, Manchester United face Villa in the Premier League on Saturday evening at Villa Park. The Red Devils will be looking to beat Villa for the second time in five days and put pressure on those ahead of them in the race for a top-four finish.

Form guide

These sides met just last Monday in the FA Cup, with Scott McTominay’s 8th-minute header securing the victory for United. Ralf Rangnick will be looking for his side to turn in an improved performance, having struggled for much of Monday evenings fixture.

United’s last league game, which was against Wolves, resulted in Rangnick’s first defeat since taking over as interim manager back in November. Joao Moutinho’s late strike secured Wolves a first victory at Old Trafford in 41 years.

United’s form has been up and down since Rangnick’s arrival. A 1-0 win over Crystal Palace gave Rangnick a winning start to his time as boss, with further victories coming in the league in the following weeks against Norwich and Burnley.

However, many of United’s performances in recent times have left a lot to be desired. A sub-par showing against Newcastle saw United fortunate to leave St James’ Park with a share of the spoils, with David De Gea’s late heroics denying the Magpies a vital three points. A decent win against Burnley was followed by the Wolves defeat, with many criticising United’s performance against Bruno Lage’s side.

Villa on the other hand come into this game in mixed form. Villa initially made a bright start to life under Steven Gerrard, with the Liverpool icon winning three of his first four games as boss. Since then, Villa have won just two games and lost a further four. With a raucous Villa Park crowd sure to be backing Gerrard’s men, a tough fixture awaits United.

Team News

Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay will miss the trip to Birmingham on Saturday due to suspension. Alex Telles has enjoyed plenty of gametime since Rangnick’s arrival and the United boss has confirmed that he will start in place of Shaw. Nemanja Matic may partner Fred in the middle of the park as a result of McTominay’s suspension. 

Eric Bailly and Hannibal miss out, as both players are part of their respective countries’ Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaigns. Anthony Martial is doubtful to play, with rumours circulating about his future at the club.

Phil Jones and skipper Harry Maguire missed Monday’s game through minor injuries but should be in contention to feature once again this week. Victor Lindelof made his return from Covid against Villa last week, and may well play again as he looks to build his fitness back up. The Sweden captain hasn’t played in the league since being forced to leave the pitch against Norwich last month, with apparent breathing difficulties.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed United’s last game with a muscle problem, while Jadon Sancho wasn’t risked as he had picked up a knock. Both should be back in the squad, with Ronaldo likely to lead the line once again.

Villa midfielder John McGinn misses out due to suspension, with Leon Bailey and Marvelous Nakamba also sidelined through injury. Villa duo Bertrand Traore and Trézéguet are away on international duty at AFCON and won’t feature on Saturday. Former United star Ashley Young is back in contention after missing the last few games through injury.

Phillipe Coutinho and Lucas Digne should start after joining Villa this month. Digne departed Everton after falling out with Toffee’s boss Rafa Benitez. Coutinho will be looking to mark his return to the Premier League with a bang, after a number of underwhelming seasons at Barcelona

Ones to watch

David De Gea has arguably been United’s player of the season so far. With a string of miraculous saves, De Gea has almost single handedly saved this season from being a complete bust.

Bruno Fernandes’ form has seen a remarkable downturn in recent months. The Portuguese Magnifico has been criticised by fans and pundits alike for his reminstrations on the pitch with the referee and his fellow teammates. Bruno will be desperate to turn his fortunes around, with Villa Park being the perfect place to reignite his season. Once again, Cristiano Ronaldo seems United’s best chance at getting some goals on the board.

Marcus Rashford has struggled to get going this season. The forward is clearly suffering from a lack of confidence and his performance levels have dropped considerably since England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 Final last summer. Rashford will be eager to get back on track against Villa this weekend, after coming in for criticism for his performance in the cup game last week. 

Villa’s main goal threat at Old Trafford was Ollie Watkins, with the English centre forward striking the crossbar in the first half after running Victor Lindelof ragged. Should he start, Danny Ings will be a danger man that United will have to keep tabs on. 

The main creative spark for Aston Villa will be Emi Buendia. While Buendia struggled in the early weeks of his Villa career after joining from Norwich, the attacking midfielder has improved massively in recent weeks. His excellent performance against United in the cup last week should be a cause for concern for Rangnick and his coaching team.

Fresh from joining on loan from Barcelona, Coutinho is expected to make his return to England in Saturday’s game. The Brazilian has endured a disappointing spell at Barcelona since leaving Liverpool in 2018. During his first spell in England, Coutinho was one of the best players in the league and has fond memories of playing against United. With the World Cup fast approaching, Coutinho will be eager to hit the ground running if he is to impress Brazil boss Tite, and force his way into Brazil’s World Cup Squad. Lucas Digne is also set to make his Villa debut after completing a move from Everton this week.

Predicted Line-up (4-1-2-1-2 Diamond)

McTominay’s absence coupled with the fact Rangnick used this formation for the last 20 minutes of Monday’s game with Villa, suggest a change to a diamond shape may be likely.

David De Gea;

Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelöf, Raphael Varane, Alex Telles;

Nemanja Matic;

Donny Van De Beek, Fred;

Bruno Fernandes;

Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani;

Getting back on track

After months of inconsistency, United fans will be hoping that now is the time that United go on a run and get their season back on track. Defeat to Wolves was Rangnick’s first defeat as boss, so he will be desperate for a victory. A win for United would see them leapfrog Spurs in 6th, leaving the Red Devil’s just three points off the Champions League spots with a game in hand.

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