Author: Herzog’s Child
Follow Herzog’s Child on Twitter
Manchester United travel to Aston Villa, marking the start of four away games in a row for the league leaders. With Champions League qualification assured, focus now is on staying top for as long as possible, particularly with rivals facing each other this weekend. Villa know they can’t drop into the relegation zone regardless of the score but will want to pull away from the dangerous territory they find themselves in. We welcome comments from both sets of fans.
A view from the opposition
First up, we fired a few question over to Adam, an Aston Villa fan. You can follow Adam on Twitter – @AdamWright06
What have you made of Paul Lambert and his signings so far?
A strong character with an honest approach, pushes virtues of togetherness and work ethic which I like. He’s been a little tactically naive at times but has got some great performances out of young players. Signings wise, Benteke is an obvious coup for Villa, a young powerful striker who despite early showings seems to know where the goal is. Lambert likes big men up top and I think in Benteke we have a big lad who can play a bit too. Brett Holman and El Ahmadi have given some grit and creativity to midfield and I am happy to see the likes of Joe Bennett and Ron Vlaar steadying our defence.
With a quarter of the season gone, early signs are that Villa could well be in a relegation battle – was this expected?
With an owner unwilling to spend more millions again this season unless wage bills were cut, and with an already famously small squad, I have to be honest, I was expecting a struggle. Our current plight is more down to the improvement in the quality of the Premier Leagues squads, even those coming up are strong – it’s not that we have a lack of quality. We are competing in one of the highest quality divisions in Europe with a spine of youngsters (Ciaran Clark, Chris Herd, Barry Bannan, Fabian Delph, Marc Albrighton) that was never going to be a cakewalk! They all however have an unrivalled pride to be putting on the senior shirt having mostly come through the highly commendable youth set up and I would rather bed them in for a year or two to get the best out of them in the long run rather than simply purchasing so called ‘tried and tested’ replacements in fear of sitting in the bottom half of the table now.
If Villa can beat United, where on the pitch will they have an advantage?
We have a exceptionally unfavourable record against United so I don’t hold out much hope but I am very sure that if Gabby and Benteke partner well up top we can give them problems as none of the United first team centre halves enjoy being run at for 90 mins. We will also need to push our wingers high up the pitch to avoid allowing the United width to run riot. Other than that, two good solid banks of four behind the ball at all times would give us a chance of using our pace on the break but we will need to press and work very hard without possession as we are unlikely to see much of it.
Fancy making a prediction for the game?
2-1 Villa (Benteke opener and Bent to come on to score the winner)
Following Wednesday’s cumbersome display in the rains of Braga, United will be hoping to not only win once more, but to win well and continue what has thus far been a commendable league campaign. The sluggishness that reduced the midweek Champions League tie to little more than a soporific sigh-fest will need to be replaced by a little competence if United are to achieve their fifth successive league win. Villa, so inexcusably poor last season, have similarly shambled into the new campaign, winning just a single match of their opening ten. Such contrasting league form may offer reds hope that a win is inevitable, but experience will always tell a different story. In dire need of further points, Paul Lambert’s side will envision the visit of United as an opportunity to reverse their prolonged misfortune and reignite a campaign yet to edge past its stuttering stage. Villa Park tends to be a welcoming arena for United, a ground richly woven into their history as a result of monumental cup jousts and enduring fine form. On Saturday evening United will travel to the midlands as league leaders and could end the evening 4 points ahead of second-placed Chelsea, who face Brendan and the philosophy graduates of Liverpool on Sunday. As leaders the onus is now on United to place distance between them and the rest who are snapping at their heels. The season is still more or less in its infancy, but psychological advantages have already begun. Provided Fergie doesn’t deem it necessary to trip the team up by employing the tombola, we should prevail.
Guessing precisely which eleven Fergie is going to deploy on any given match day is about as futile as simultaneously trying your hand at astrophysics whilst attempting to predict the lotto numbers. On a pogo stick. Well, not quite as difficult as that, perhaps, but the tombola too often overused too often leads a man to misery. He does, however, know best despite what our natural inclinations deduce, but Saturday offers little room for toying. With Jonny Evans sidelined through injury, the recently-returned Chris Smalling will slot in alongside Rio. Nani will play no part, of course, having also been ruled out for just under a fortnight. While the official line is that he has picked up a hamstring injury, recent observers of his poor form and shuffling towards the exit-door may cynically conclude that he is merely being ostracised. If one is to engage in the wearisome guessing game, the idea of Fergie selecting his two available wingers doesn’t seem overly fanciful. Valencia has been distinctly stop-start in recent weeks, but unlike Nani offers an invaluable effort even when playing poorly. Young could well be placed on the left in an attempt to inflict pain upon his past employers, provided he chooses his options wisely rather than infuriatingly, as he too often does. The midfield slots are anyone’s guess. Having not featured midweek, it’s relatively safe to assume Carrick will return. With Anderson still dry-heaving from completing a rare 90 minutes on Wednesday, it seems more likely that one of Cleverely or Scholes will be United’s other option. Having not played in a few weeks, the latter may well be called upon to supply order. The problem, of course, will be the disorder that inevitably reigns when United don’t have the ball. The forward line requires no consideration here: the two spots pick themselves.
Defence and midfield need to lift burden from strikers
For all the dramatics and chaos of United’s early season performances, which have provided fun in abundance, there will have to come a time for the restoration of order if May is to be rewarding. United may be free-scoring and playing with an almost admirably carefree approach, but they are also leaking at an alarming rate. Only two clean sheets have been garnered thus far. While criticism will lie firmly with United’s defence, it needs to be understood that they are being continuously impeded by a middle that does little to quell what is approaching them. Carrick sufficiently tidies up, but all options in the middle – because of a lack of mobility and bite – are vulnerable to punishment. This is a problem that, unfortunately due to little less than negligence, will continue because the options are not there to bring about radical change. However, tightening up and choosing the best of a limited lot will improve things somewhat. United’s early season form, and rate of goals, has been fun to take in. Tedium has yet to blight the season, but United still begin games with suicidal intentions. Fortunately for them they have a frontline so brimming with threat that, when the noose begins to tighten, a clever Dutchman, a spud-faced scouser and a loveably shambling Mexican tend to rush in and collectively knife the rope before The Reaper appears. Good lads. It’s all very exciting indeed, but c’mon chaps – do your bit to make things a little easier.
Prediction(s): are silly.