Aston Villa perspective: David Grimble, Up The Villa.
After looking like Lambert had the vast majority of our squad to choose from, one or two injuries have popped up recently. Darren Bent was ruled out of the Sunderland game with an ankle knock, naturally starting numerous conspiracy theories amongst the Villa fans given the uncertainty surrounding his future. He might be fit against United, but will probably have to make do with a spot on the bench. Young left back Joe Bennett was forced off against the Mackems relatively early on with a recurrence of a knee injury, and his replacement Eric Lichaj will miss the game against United through suspension after picking up five yellow cards this season. This could mean a full starting debut for young Irish defender Enda Stevens.
After only managing a draw at home against Norwich, the game against Sunderland last week was vitally important going into consecutive fixtures against United, Manchester City and Arsenal. A 1-0 victory was a huge result for us, and slightly eases the pressure with a bit of a gap between us and the bottom three. If we manage to pick up a point or two in the next few games, I think most Villans would be happy with that.
Where to start?! I think Villa must be most United fans' second favourite side given their domination in this fixture. I read a stat earlier which stated that since Ferguson took over at Old Trafford, Villa have won just 7 of the 58 games played between the clubs! This says it all really. Last season we were beaten 1-0 at home, and 4-0 away, and aside from our famous 1-0 victory at Old Trafford in the 09/10 season, we haven’t had too much to smile about in games against the Red Devils.
Villa/United HT/FT at 20.00. Hopefully Villa start at full pelt against a United side that had a tough evening against Braga. We played well at Sunderland, and we’re more than capable of going into half time with the lead. Over the 90 minutes though, I expect United to have enough to claim all three points.
Christian Benteke to score first at 14.00. He’s already a firm fan favourite, and has started to form a promising partnership with Gabby Agbonlahor. Bannan should start, and after recent stats showed he has the best crossing stats in Europe, Benteke is a natural target given he stands at 6'3.
Ashley Young to score at 3.60. His side loves playing at Villa Park, he loved playing at Villa Park, so it would be no surprise to see former hero Ashley Young come back, score a goal, and leave the live commentators to mutter “It had to be him”. Gotta love football clichés.
Score prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Man United (8.00)
Man United perspective: Chudi Onwuazor, The Busby Way.
United can count themselves lucky that Chris Smalling has finally returned to action. The 22-year-old turned out against Braga on Wednesday, in the same game Jonny Evans went off with a groin injury. There is a slight chance Evans will play but realistically no Smalling would have left United with just one fit CB, so his return is welcome. Nani also went off in midweek with a tight hamstring that will keep him in the physio room with Vidic, Kagawa and Jones.
Whilst still far from their best United are pressing forward and now sit top of the Premier League, and have qualified from their Champions League group with two games to spare. They made light work of Arsenal last week without getting out of first gear but with Ferdinand expressing his disappointment and Sir Alex demanding his side be more ruthless, Villa may be in for a mauling.
Since their convincing 3-1 win against United that lead Alan Hansen to utter some famous words about winning with kids in 1995, United have avoided defeat in 16 visits to Villa Park. Villa have won just two of their last 17 home games and I fully expect that to extend to 18.
Over 3.5 goals at 2.45. United have scored at least two in their last nine league games and with Villa keeping just three clean sheets in their last 19 at Villa Park expect goals. Sir Alex has demanded a more ruthless United so over 3.5 goals at 2.45 could be easy money.
United to win first half 2-0 at 8.25. United haven’t been holding back in the league recently, scoring early goals against Chelsea and Arsenal. Villa are missing key defenders and facing the best attack in the league they could come under fire early.
Robin van Persie to score at 4.40. He’s grabbed the first goal in United’s last two league games, and is almost a cert to continue this trend against Villa.
Score prediction: Aston Villa 0-3 Man United (12.50)