Aston Villa vs Manchester United: Premier League Preview and Prediction
Manchester United will be traveling to Villa Park as they look to cut the gap between them and fourth-placed Leicester City to just a point.
United are yet to be beaten since football’s restart and are also unbeaten in their last 16 games in all competitions. Aston Villa are under tremendous pressure as their fight against relegation is slipping out of their hands and they are four points behind safety.
Dean Smith’s men have not managed to win a game since January and have been only conceding lately. Villa are also the team with most goals conceded and it is a shame as they started their campaign very brightly.
Head to Head
Aston Villa have just one win against United in the last 42 games the two sides have played between them. That sole win came at Old Trafford in 2009.
Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 20 away games against Aston Villa, since a 1-3 loss on the opening day of 1995-96 season. It is the longest unbeaten away run one team has had in the English top-flight’s history.
It is possible that Manchester United make history by becoming the first PL team to win four consecutive games by a margin of three or more goals.
Villa faced this season’s Premier League champions in their last game and were expected to receive a thrashing as the Reds looked to come out with a strong statement after their defeat against Manchester City. However, the Villans did well and managed to concede only twice with a good amount of chances that could have seen better finishing.
Dean Smith’s plan was simple- sit back and then hit back on the counter. Villa were successful in their execution too but were very sloppy in the final third. The game at Anfield has some positives definitely but their overall form does not add up anywhere. Aston Villa are without a victory in their last ten games in all competitions, while their last victory came against Watford stepping into the new year.
Villa though have been one of the unluckiest team in England’s top-flight as all their games since the restart have been against clubs chasing European competitions. They have already played Sheffield United, Chelsea, Wolves and Liverpool and are yet to play Everton and Arsenal after playing the Red Devils.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have shown some character since the restart and after the game against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, United look complete after winning 5-2, coming from behind.
Manchester United will need to play every remaining game as a do-or-die, especially after Chelsea’s win over Crystal Palace. A win will take United closer to fourth-placed Leicester, being one point away from the Foxes and two behind the Blues.
Villa did manage to stun United in their reverse fixture at Old Trafford, drawing 2-2. However, times have changed and Manchester United have gained momentum.
Aston Villa have lost four and drawn two in their last six league games, while Manchester United and drawn two and won four in their last six.
Starting from the defense, Villa will be without Tom Heaton and Matt Targett is the latest addition. The latter is expected to be fit for the game against Crystal Palace. Wesley is one more long-term absentee who is not expected to feature in the remaining games for Villa this season.
Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings are expected to start despite reports of the pair picking up injuries. Bjorn Engels has been struggling with his Achilles and is expected to make way for Pepe Reina, who did a good job against his former club last weekend.
Manchester United were lucky with an extra day to recover after their game against Bournemouth and thus are expected to name an unchanged squad. This may be the fourth successive time United start unchanged, witnessing an unchanged line-up in more than three successive games for the first time since 2005.
Victor Lindelof had a struggling back and was replaced at half-time against Bournemouth, although he will be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first option to start the game.
Tyrone Mings vs Anthony Martial
If anyone in the United squad has been having the time of his life after seeing Bruno Fernandes' creativity in the midfield, it is Anthony Martial.
The United number nine has been involved in the game more than ever and most of the credit goes to Fernandes. Martial has scored 15 goals and assisted three in the Premier League this season and has already beaten his previous best figures for the Red Devils with a good number of games left to be played this season.
He will be up against Tyrone Mings, who had a very bright start to the 2019-20 season but his form went for a toss just like his team slipped in the relegation zone.
Considering the form United's players have been in, it will take a brilliant display of strength and character for Mings to cause Martial problems. Also, with Villa's change in defensive shape and approach towards their game, they are expected to cause problems and that is a direct challenge for Martial.
The Frenchman has a goal contribution in more than 50% of Manchester United's games since football's resumption and things may go either way as Aston Villa look to give their all for escaping relegation while United try to take the three points, something that is much needed for them after Chelsea's win against Palace.
Douglas Luiz vs Bruno Fernandes
Fernandes has been Manchester United's best player since his arrival and there are no doubts about that. Manchester United are just a few wins away from confirming a Champions League spot and almost all the credit goes to the Portuguese midfielder.
His arrival has been effective for the Red Devils not only statistically but in a lot of other ways. Everyone has witnessed a completely transformed Manchester United since football's restart.
For Aston Villa, Douglas Luiz has been the most reliable player for Dean Smith after Jack Grealish. The Brazilian is the core of the Villans' midfield and his job this time will be to stop the "Portuguese magnifico."
Considering Aston Villa's struggling form and Manchester United's growing confidence, the head-to-head would probably be one-sided but after so many consistent performances, Fernandes is expected to be marked to death by the teams Manchester United face in future as his influence has been very crucial.
Luiz with his physicality will be looking to neutralize Fernandes with full effect while the latter is expected to go all guns blazing, again.
Manchester United should look forward to a tricky game at Villa Park as Aston Villa have managed five wins out of their total seven at home soil and this can fuel Grealish and co. to step up their game. However, it is very uncertain seeing this United squad stumble after being so impressive and hence, the Red Devils are expected to leave with the three points.
Predicted scoreline: Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United