Everyone will be looking up at Old Trafford on Saturday, and neither one of Manchester United and Aston Villa will like what they see.
For United, a humbling campaign under David Moyes hit another low with Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester City, the second such league reverse to a deadly rival in two home games and one made all the more galling by the sheer ease with which their once inferior neighbours achieved it.
It took City just a matter of seconds to establish their dominance at a venue they once dreaded going to, but in truth that dominance has been there all season.
David Moyes, as ever, is the man who carried the can for yet another alarmingly dismal United display, with a group of fans now planning to fly a banner calling for the removal of the Scot as manager both before this game and in the opening few minutes of it.
Yet Moyes remains the one chosen to manage the team, and when he looks up from United’s position of seventh in the league table, five points behind Tottenham and five ahead of Newcastle, he’ll see the hard work that lies ahead. If indeed any work lies ahead beyond the summer.
For Villa and Paul Lambert, when they look skyward they are simply left dismayed at the amount of clubs above them.
Last season’s relegation struggle might not have been repeated in this campaign, but Villa’s fans will still look at the likes of West Ham, Stoke and even Southampton ahead of them in the table and wonder why their team are lagging behind.
Those who were at last weekend’s 4-1 capitulation at home to Stoke would have been given a few clues, but the fact that the loss came off the back of a fine win over top of the table Chelsea only muddied the waters. Villa can be both very, very good and very, very bad. Sometimes in the same afternoon.
At Old Trafford they’d be wise to assume the role of plucky underdogs, or of those people who stare out of their car windows and linger a little too long at traffic accidents. This match has the potential to go alarmingly wrong for Moyes and everyone knows it. Villa will just have to stay in the game for as long as possible to stand a chance of a positive result.
Both teams to score looks a terrific price at 1.88, especially when you consider that both participants haven’t found the net in each of United’s last eight matches in all competitions, a trend which has to end.
Beyond that, the brave could go for Draw or Villa at 2.85, but the suspicion has to be that United will eventually have just enough to get over the line, with the hosts to win by exactly one goal at 3.60.
Robin van Persie’s absence has given a chance for Danny Welbeck to get back into the United team, and although he’ll suffer from the lack of decent service behind him the forward is a good shout for an anytime strike at 2.50.
The lack of goals from the hosts’ midfield is well established by now, but further back they possess a couple of threats from set pieces in Phil Jones (12.50 anytime) and Nemanja Vidic (9.00), who returns from suspension.
That Villa goal that we believe is coming is likely to be scored by Christian Benteke, who is 7.50 to score first and 3.33 any time, with Fabian Delph a tempting proposition at 15.00 to score at an Old Trafford which won’t really be looking forward to this game.
Both teams to score – 1.88
Christian Benteke to score at any time – 3.33