Villa Park, Aston, Birmingham
13th Nov, 6:15 PM IST – Live on ESPN
Villa come into the game on the back of a hard fought win over a depleted Blackpool side courtesy of a late Collins’ winner. The Villains have performed adequately this season, considering the departures of key midfielder James Milner and coach Martin O’ Neill. Manager Gerard Houllier has been very unlucky as far as injuries to key players is concerned, but he would be delighted by the way his young players have stepped up in their absence.
United, on the other hand, suffered a stutter in their revival, as their six game winning run was brought to an end in a very dull and defensive derby. Sir Alex, though, would be hopeful that his team will return to winning ways and keep up the pressure on high-fliers Chelsea. One thing that must be worrying for the manager would be the away form of his team – the red Devils have managed just one win in six away games so far . However, United is also the only team still unbeaten in the league this season.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Manager Gerard Houllier could be without as many as nine players. While Carew and Cuellar have not recovered from their calf injuries, Habib Beye has joined the injury list with an ankle strain suffered in midweek. Delph, Reo-Coker, Petrov and Heskey are still out with knee injuries along with Sidwell and Weimann. Gabriel Agbonlahor looks set to start though, after his substitute appearance in the midweek game against Blackpool.
Houllier would be looking to stifle United by playing five across the midfield with Agbonlahor set to be the target man. Former Man City midfielder Stephen Ireland could also start the game to provide some experience in a relatively young Villa midfield. Villa would be looking to attack United from the wings with Young and Downing swapping flanks regularly.
Probable Starting Line-up: Friedel, Luke Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Young, Downing, Albrighton, Ireland, Bannan, Agbonlahor
United would be without Paul Scholes, who is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card against City in midweek. Rafael is also out after suffering a dead leg in the derby. Anderson and Gibson are also doubtful with a virus infection but Patrice Evra could be involved after recovering from the ankle knock suffered on Wednesday. Ryan Giggs could also be back to the starting XI after recovering from his hamstring injury; while Rooney, Michael Owen, Hargreaves and Valencia are definitely out.
Brown is set to start the game at right back with Rafael out injured. United are likely to play in a 4-4-2 formation, after deploying a five men midfield at Eastlands. Hernandez is expected to return to the starting line-up alongside Berbatov. With Scholes out, the midfield duties are likely to rest on the shoulders of Carrick and Fletcher.
Probable Starting Line-up: Van Der Sar, Brown, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs, Hernandez, Berbatov
Key Match Facts
1) United are the only unbeaten team in England across all leagues this season.
2) Only Arsene Wenger (9) has won more league games against United in the Premier League than Gerard Houllier (5).
3) Villa have lost just once in their last 15 home games. –
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Nani (Manchester United)
The Portugese winger, who returned from injury in the last match after missing the game against Wolves, looked most likely to unlock the door in an ultra-defensive derby. He is currently on top of the assists table in the league and has been the focal point of United’s attack this season. He would surely want to make amends for his red card in this fixture last season and be a cause of threat for the opposition.
Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United
The pair of Young and Agbonlahor will pose problems for United’s defence, but the lack of experience could prove too big a hurdle for the home side to overcome against Sir Alex’s men.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST