Fixtures against Aston Villa have been a mixed bag of disappointment and excitement in recent seasons, the last of which ended with United lifting the Carling Cup at Wembley. Just a few weeks prior to that cup glory, United were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against the Villans after Nani’s sending off. And before that United fell to a 1-0 loss against Villa in December. Of course, there’s been plenty of highlights too. Paul Scholes’ volley at Villa Park in the 06-07 campaign comes to mind. And of course, who could forget when Kiko Macheda introduced himself to the world in April 2009? There’s no telling what this match may have in store for us.
I suspected that Aston Villa would struggle in the wake of Martin O’Neill’s departure this summer, which has been somewhat true. Under Gerard Houllier the club has not been at risk of relegation, but they’re also not pushing for the Champions League. The Villans have suffered from inconsistency this season; they were hammered 6-0 by newly-promoted Newcastle, but managed to grind out a 0-0 draw against Chelsea. It just makes for even more uncertainty in the build up to United’s visit to Villa Park. Will this be the Villa we saw against Newcastle or the one that got a point against Chelsea?
I doubt we’ll see too much variation from the squad that got a draw against City on Wednesday, of course with the exception of changes enforced by injury and suspension. Edwin van der Sar will most likely retain his place in goal with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic the centre back paring in front of him. Patrice Evra went off injured against City, but is expected to return for the trip to Villa Park. The same cannot be said for his fellow full back Rafael. The young Brazilian also went of injured on Wednesday and is unlikely to feature over the weekend. Wes Brown will be a more than adequate deputy in Rafa’s absence.
Paul Scholes misses out after picking up a suspension, but Darren Fletcher and the rejuvenated Michael Carrick should both start in the centre of midfield. With injuries still plaguing our wingers, Nani and Ji-Sung Park are the most likely selections to face Villa. I suspect, or rather hope, that United will revert to a 4-4-2 for this fixture. Neither Dimitar Berbatov nor Javier Hernandez operate well as the lone striker, but as partners they could be very lethal. Berbatov has gone nearly two months without a goal following his hat trick against Liverpool and the Bulgarian badly needs to get back amongst the goals.
As for Aston Villa, fortunately their main threat Emile Heskey has been ruled out. Also, pigs can fly. On a more serious note, the biggest threat from Villa will be Ashley Young. Young’s pace on the left wing will be tough for United to cope with, especially the quick and energetic Rafa sidelined. Gabriel Agbonlahor is another one to look out for despite a slow start to the season. Injury has limited Agbonlahor to a solitary Premier League appearance and no goals. However, when he is on form there is no doubting that he is a threat.
So this brings us to the prediction. I predict a 2-1 United win; Nani and Berbatov to get the goals.
And now a few videos of recent highlights against Villa:
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