Manchester United vs Aston Villa – Pre-game Assessment

Tuesday, Dec 26th, 20.00 – Old Trafford

Referee: Craig Pawson

That we were scheduled to play against Manchester City a few weeks back when they were coming off three demoralising ties, and were without Jack Grealish and Rodri, suggests divine good fortune was shining on us.  We also had close to our best potential line-up.

Now we are facing Manchester United who are in even worse doldrums at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.  Their most recent loss to West Ham leaves them in 8th place in the Premier League and looking unlikely to qualify for any European soccer next season having crashed out of the UEFA Champions League by losing at home to Bayern Munich less than two weeks ago.  That they were able to prevent losing to Liverpool at Anfield in a 0-0 tie is little comfort as it further exposed the team’s inability to score goals (currently averaging one per game).  The ‘Red Devils’ are having a devilishly bad season and this is only a year after finishing 3rd in the Premier League. 

With Victor Lindelof, Harry MaguireLisandro Martinez, Mason Mount, and Casemiro unavailable for our game, they have to hope that Raphael Varane recovers from illness to calm the nerves at the back.

Our Villans could be somewhat deflated by lowly Sheffield United stopping the home winning streak at 15, and the lack of Torres, Tielemans, and Kamara, but they have much more to be positive about.  The first will be having an eleven-point lead on their opponents.  The second will be having Emi Martinez and Ollie Watkins starting.  The former has been playing at his World Cup level and the latter has scored in four Premier League away fixtures already this season.

We should also be encouraged by the Liverpool versus Arsenal tie that keeps both teams in-range.  After we play Man U., we have a relatively easy string of fixtures over the next two months Burnley (H), Everton (A), Newcastle (H), Sheffield United (A), Fulham (A), and Nottingham Forest (H).  We should win all the home games and two of the three away games.

Meanwhile, Liverpool and Arsenal have more demanding schedules, especially Liverpool. Since Torres should be back for all those games, starting off with three points at Old Trafford, is worth fighting for, especially on Boxing Day!

My first inclination was to see this as a natural 1-1 tie, for the same reason that we tied with Wolves at Molineux in October.  It was more important for both teams to avoid losing.  Emery might be tempted in that direction because we could be competing with this Manchester team for a 5th or 6th place position and giving them three points could catapult them in that direction.

Still, even if our opponents want to tie, they seem incapable, having only tied once in the Premier League all season (the game at Liverpool).  Their record at home is five wins (over Wolves, Nottingham Forest, Brentford, Luton, and Chelsea) and four losses (to Brighton, Crystal Palace, Man City, and Bournemouth).

I predict that we will find a way to make that five losses at home for our hosts.

Result Prediction:

Prediction:  Manchester United 1, Aston Villa 3

Predicted Villa Line-Up:

Aston Villa: (4, 3, 3) Martínez, Konsa, Carlos, Lenglet, Moreno, McGinn, Luiz, Zaniolo, Diaby, Ramsey, Watkins.

Subs: Marschall, Bailey, Digne, Dendoncker, Chambers, Durán, Iroegbunam

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