Date: Saturday 25th September, 2021
Time: 12:30 pm
Stadium: Old Trafford
Referee: Mike Dean (England)
Manchester United Team News
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been handed a boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Aston Villa. On Saturday, the Manchester United manager will only be bereft of the services of two first-team players, with Marcus Rashford being the major absentee, although he is closing in on his return from a shoulder injury.
The good news comes in the form of Edinson Cavani’s return to fitness, with the veteran striker rejoining full training this week. The Uruguayan international is in contention to feature against Aston Villa, although he is unlikely to start ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was rested earlier in the week versus West Ham United.
While Ronaldo will lead the line for Manchester United, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba will be the chief creators for the hosts, with the latter likely to be deployed on the left flank ahead of Jadon Sancho. On the right-wing, there is no looking past Mason Greenwood, who looked lively off the bench in the cup fixture.
Pogba’s positioning higher up the pitch means Scott McTominay is likely to have Fred for company in the midfield double pivot. The duo’s presence in the middle of the park will provide Manchester United with a relatively more solid base in front of the defenders, although the Red Devils will still have a soft underbelly.
At the heart of the Manchester United defence, there is no looking past Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw being the two full-backs. Finally, in goal, David de Gea is the undisputed first-choice following some brilliant performances at the start of the season, like the one against West Ham last week.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Greenwood, Fernandes, Pogba; Ronaldo
Unlike his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Dean Smith has a number of roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. On Saturday, the Aston Villa manager could have to make do without as many as six first-team players.
The major absentees for Villa is Leon Bailey, who was top class off the bench against Everton last week. The Jamaican winger, though, is unavailable due to a hamstring injury he sustained in the same game. The rest of the sidelined players are Morgan Sanson (hamstring), Trezeguet (knee) and Keinan Davis (knee).
In addition, Axel Tuanzebe is unavailable as he is ineligible to face parent club Manchester United. Finally, Smith is sweating over the fitness of Matt Targett, who is recovering from a groin injury. The 26-year-old will face a late fitness test, although it appears likely that Ashley Young will start instead.
The former Manchester United captain will likely be deployed in a left wing-back role, with Aston Villa likely to line up in a 3-5-2 formation. The role should suit Young better after struggling against Callum Hudson-Odoi in the Carabao Cup fixture. On the right flank, the in-form Matty Cash is a certainty.
As for the three-man central defensive unit, Kortney Hause, Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa pick themselves, with Hause earning the start on Saturday after a solid showing earlier in the week. In goal, Emiliano Martinez is an automatic pick while in midfield, John McGinn, Marvelous Nakamba and Douglas Luiz are expected to start.
McGinn will be the ball carrier for Aston Villa while Luiz and Nakamba will have the onus on them to keep things tight in the middle of the park. Finally, Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins ought to form the strike partnership, with Bertrand Traore and Emiliano Buendia being options off the bench.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Martinez; Konsa, Hause, Mings; Cash, Luiz, Nakamba, McGinn, Young; Ings, Watkins
Aston Villa’s solitary win in the past 45 Premier League meetings came at Old Trafford in December 2009, with Gabby Agbonlahor scoring the only goal of the game. In fact, the Red Devils hold the Premier League record for most wins against a particular opponent (37 versus Villa and Everton).
Manchester United are unbeaten after their opening five league games for only the second time in 10 seasons. They went eight matches without defeat from the beginning of 2017/18. However, the Red Devils’ seven most recent Premier League defeats have all come at Old Trafford.
Aston Villa have lost both of their away Premier League games this season, and five of the past eight on the road in the top-flight. The Villans have suffered eight away league defeats in 2021; only Southampton have lost more among current Premier League teams.
Manchester United have scored in 15 successive Premier League matches at Old Trafford. On the other hand, Aston Villa are on a run of eight top-flight away fixtures without a clean sheet.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored eight Premier League goals against Aston Villa – his highest versus any English club.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa