14th August 2015; 1945 BST
Ita s a rare Friday night fixture, the first match of Gameweek 2, in this new season of the Barclays Premier League as Louis Van Gaala s Manchester United travel to Villa Park. The match originally scheduled for Saturday had to be advanced to Friday, due to a march by a far-right protest group (English Defense Group) in Birmingham, as it could not be postponed to Sunday owing to Uniteda s Champions League play-off against Club Brugge on Tuesday.
After the a Kyle Walker-gifted victorya over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford last week, Van Gaala s men would be looking for a much better performance this time around. Aston Villa on the other hand, after the late 1-0 victory over the newly promoted Bournemouth, when their new strike signing Rudy Gestede found the net coming on as a substitute in his debut game, are in a buoyant mood for their first home game of the season.
Team News and Predicted Lineup
The current Villa squad is very much different from the one United faced in the stale 1-1 draw, last December. The entire squad has undergone a massive rebuild under the regime of Tim Sherwood this summer, with a huge influx of young talent; at the same time losing a number of crucial players in the likes of Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Fabian Delph (Manchester City) and Ron Vlaar (Released). Though the sale of Delph to City saw two Premier League veterans, Scott Sinclair and Micah Richards move to Villa park, ita ll prove to be extremely difficult for Sherwood to find an equivalent replacement for Benteke. The Belgian striker almost averaged a goal every two games, his entire Villa career.
Sherwood was quick to snap up Jordan Ayew from the struggling Ligue 1 side, Lorient and Gestede from Blackburn Rovers though, hoping to fill the gaping hole left by the Belgian. And with the bright start in their first game, hopefully ita ll prove to be the right move for this Villa side, which has struggled more often than not in the absence of Benteke. Also the captures of Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Veretout from Lille and Nantes respectively should help cover for the departure of Delph, with Gueye the best in terms of current ability to walk through the door. The Senegalese international could soon become a fan favorite with his trademark all-action displays and the quick tempo of his game.
With the aforementioned transplant of Villaa s spine, the coach has ditched his favored 4-4-2, moving to a more attacking 4-3-3. With Carles Gil, Jack Grealish in midfield and Jores Okore at Centre Back still missing out due to injury, Micah Richards and Ciaran Clark will continue at center defense with Gueye and Veretout starting in the middle of the pitch. The impressive debut goal should also see Gestede start his first game, pushing Ayew to the wings along with Gabriel Agbonlahor as Sinclair takes to the bench, leaving the rest of the starting XI to pick themselves.
Probable XI (4-3-3): Guzan, Amavi, Richards, Clark, Bacuna; Westwood, Gueye, Veretout; Gestede, Ayew, Agbonlahor.
Louis Van Gaal has also been a busy man this summer, as five players made their debuts in Uniteda s first game of the season. And all five should feature yet again in the Villa game as Van Gaal looks set to continue with his confusing change to 4-2-3-1 from the preferred 4-3-3 system, which brought him such immense joy in the latter part of his first season at United.
Trouble between the sticks continues for Van Gaal as De Gea is still out of the team, owing to fact that the Spaniarda s head is not in the game, with his impending transfer to Real Madrid. Thus after a credible display against Spurs, Sergio Romero should continue in goal, ahead of Sam Johnstone. The odd Van Gaal requirement of a left footed and right footed Centre back pairing will see Daley Blind partner up with Chris Smalling once more, as Phil Jones stays out injured and Marcos Rojo is yet to regain complete match fitness. Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw then picks themselves at fullback positions, the former with a man of the match display and the latter close behind in terms of performance, in last weeka s Spurs game.
The holding midfield pairing of Morgan Schneiderlin and Michael Carrick should persist as well, with Bastian Schweinsteiger still in the process of attaining full match fitness. The three in front of the pair will have the Dutchman’s ever faithful Ashley Young on the left and the clinical Juan Mata on the right as Memphis Depay continues his out of position No.10 role, holing up just behind the lone striker in Wayne Rooney.
In the pre-match press conference earlier today, when asked about Memphis; Van Gaal had this to say a Maybe I shall use him also at the left-wing position because he knows that much better.a With the Dutchman, one never knows and if he decides to play Memphis on the left, ita s difficult to see Young taking the fall which probably means Mata moves behind Rooney and Young replaces Mata on the right. Which could still prove to be a better ploy than what the Iron Tulip has been tinkering with the whole of pre-season and the Spurs game.
Probable XI (4-2-3-1): Romero, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw; Carrick, Schneiderlin, Young, Memphis, Mata; Rooney.
- Aston Villa have not beaten Manchester United at home in the Premier League since August 1995 (D7 L12).
- The Red Devils have won more games against Aston Villa (32) than any side has against a single opponent in Premier League history.
- Manchester United last started a season with consecutive league victories in 2011, when they went on to take maximum points from the first five games.
- United had only one shot on target in the opening round of fixtures, the lowest tally by any Premier League team.
- United have scored 21 goals in their last seven Premier League games against Villa, averaging three per game.
- Wayne Rooney has scored more Premier League goals against Aston Villa than any other side (13).
- Since the start of 2013/14, Rudy Gestede has scored 20 headed league goals; more than anyone else in the top four tiers of English football.
Player to watch out for
The little Spaniard has been in excellent form the last few games, with some sensational first touches and brilliant interplay with Rooney and Memphis. Mata who has entirely made the false-right winger positon his own, is certainly rolling back to his former playmaker self, working tirelessly the entire 90 minutes, dictating the tempo of the play, also helping out defensively.
Aston Villa 1 Manchester United 1
Daley Blind at Center back could prove to be a costly mistake for Van Gaal, especially when up against the likes of a strong aeriel striker such as Gestede. Also with a fresh non-English keeper between the sticks, Aston Villa could punish United where Spurs failed to do so. But yes, United definitely have the attacking prowess to cover for an inexperienced center back and a new man between the sticks, by scoring at the other end to clinch the required victory. But the way United is set up right now, holding back defensively, the team’s buildup is so slow and predictable that the Villan defense should be able to at least manage a draw or maybe even more.