Man United: We Need A Return To Form After Recent Embarrassments
Nine days separated Liverpool and Manchester City completing Premier League doubles over Manchester United, but thankfully Saturday’s opponent Aston Villa cannot do the same against David Moyes’ men. It was in fact Danny Welbeck at the double when United faced Aston Villa earlier in the season. Tom Cleverley netted the other in a 3-0 win at Villa Park.
Aston Villa, like many others, will come to Old Trafford without the usual fear factor - United are considerably weaker at home than they are away this season. With a toxic atmosphere brewing towards United’s manager, Paul Lambert will be looking to use this to motivate his side. An opportunity to take three points off the champions in their own backyard has arisen for every visiting team at the Theatre of Dreams this season.
Robin van Persie’s injury is a huge blow for United, but against lesser opposition it gives United an opportunity to a new shape that plays to the whole team’s strengths, and not just to certain individuals. Against Olympiakos, United were without the cup-tied Juan Mata, and Danny Welbeck got the nod to come in. His direct running style stretched the Greek-side’s defence and allowed Wayne Rooney more space in his position just behind the striker.
Against West Ham, Juan Mata came back in a role just behind the striker. Van Persie was out through injury and again United looked more promising, with a defined shape and the counter-attack was a deadly weapon on that day. Other positives team news includes the return of Nemanja Vidic, as Rio Ferdinand cannot be expected to play twice in a week. though Nani's status is still unknown. He is back in training and reportedly match fit, so it is unclear whether or not he is David Moyes’ plans.
Saturday’s opponents Aston Villa were in good form prior to their 4-1 defeat against Stoke, winning the two previous games previous, including an impressive 4-1 victory over Norwich. They’re currently 12th in the league and nine points clear of the relegation zone. Although they will be cautious until safety is confirmed, they shouldn’t get dragged into a fight for survival and can play with some freedom in their last eight games. Villa also have great pace in their side and Christian Benteke will relish a duel against Vidic, who has struggled against quick frontlines this year.
United will most likely revert to their normal 4-4-1-1 shape, after the strategy of packing the midfield against City went out the window inside the first minute. Antonio Valencia, who was a substitute in the derby, will make a probable return to the first XI and give United some much needed natural width. Adnan Januzaj could also be set for a return to action after being absent since the Liverpool match. The most likely candidates to drop out would be Cleverley and Welbeck. One other change from the derby could see Fellaini dropped for Darren Fletcher, after the Belgian put in a less than impressive performance against United’s city rivals and was lucky to stay on the pitch.
Predicted line-up: De Gea, Rafael, Vidic, Jones, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Valencia, Januzaj, Mata, Rooney.
Match prediction: Despite a deflated dressing room United have looked comfortable against weaker sides of late and should have enough to beat this Villa team; 3-1.
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