Having taken a giant stride towards Champions League football with an impressive 2-1 win away at Anfield last month, Manchester United host Aston Villa on Saturday looking to climb further up the table. They are just a point behind Arsenal in 3rd, who entertain Liverpool prior to the kick off at Old Trafford.
Villa’s recent resurgence under Tim Sherwood, which got them three consecutive wins including the 4-0 thrashing of Sunderland, came to a shuddering halt after a last gasp defeat against Swansea in their last game and they can fall back into the relegation zone over the weekend if results elsewhere go against them.
The two sides played out a 1-1 draw at Villa Park in December with Radamel Falcao cancelling out Christian Benteke’s stunning opener. With upcoming games against Manchester City and Chelsea, United must continue their recent form in a fixture which has seen the away side win just once since the inception of the Premier League.
Jonny Evans continues to serve his 7 match ban while Chris Smalling is a doubt due to illness. Van Gaal is expected to go with an unchanged side which beat Liverpool and Tottenham apart from the returning Marcos Rojo who could partner Phil Jones at the back.
The visitors have a host of injury problems with Jores Okore the latest concern having injured his knee in training for Denmark. Chris Herd, Nathan Baker, Kieran Richardson, Aly Cissokho and Philippe Senderos are all sidelined while Tom Cleverley is ineligible.
Ron Vlaar has declared himself fit and should take the field alongside Ciaran Clark.
Last Five Meetings
20 Dec 2014 Aston Villa 1 – 1 Man. Utd. Premier League
29 Mar 2014 Man. Utd. 4 – 1 Aston Villa Premier League
15 Dec 2013 Aston Villa 0 – 3 Man. Utd. Premier League
22 Apr 2013 Man. Utd. 3 – 0 Aston Villa Premier League
10 Nov 2012 Aston Villa 2 – 3 Man. Utd. Premier League
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Blind; Carrick, Herrera, Fellaini, Mata, Young; Rooney
Aston Villa: Guzan; Hutton, Vlaar, Clark, Bacuna; N’Zogbia, Sanchez, Delph, Sinclair; Agbonlahor, Benteke
- Manchester United have scored at least 2 goals in 8 of their last 9 home matches in the Premier League.
- ManchesterUnited have won 9 of their last 10 home matches in the Premier League.
- Manchester United have the best home form in the division, winning 12 of their 15 games at home.
- Manchester United have the second highest average possession (59.8%) as well as pass accuracy (84.8%) behind Manchester City.
- Aston Villa have the lowest shots on target per game in the league with 3.
- Aston Villa have scored 19 goals from 30 games, the lowest figure in the league.
Manchester United: Wayne Rooney
Having scored 8 goals in his last 6 home appearances against Aston Villa, Rooney will be odds on to find the net again against his favourite Premier League opponents along with Newcastle United. The Evertonian has 12 league goals against both of them.
Since Van Gaal stopped playing Rooney in central midfield, the striker has hit a rich vein of form and has scored four times in his last five league apperances. United’s highest scorer this season should add to his tally in all likelihood against Tim Sherwood’s injury ravaged side on Saturday.
Aston Villa: Christian Benteke
Benteke scored a memorable goal in the reverse fixture and he represents their best hope to snatch a point or more at Old Trafford. His form has improved recently and he also scored for Belgium during the international break which should see him come into this match full of confidence.
As the home side dominates possession, Benteke’s strength and brute force will be required in those rare occasions that Villa counter and the Belgian will also play an important role during set pieces at both ends of the pitch, with the 24 year-old winning 5.7 aerial duels per game.
Manchester United finally seem to have found the performances to go along with the results and this should be a comfortable home win for them. A 2-0 win is being offered on William Hill on the odds of 11/2.