Manchester United will play hosts to Aston Villa at Old Trafford as the two teams lock horns in the third round of the FA Cup on Monday night.

The final fixture of the third round of the 2021/22 FA Cup will take place on Monday night as Manchester United and Aston Villa square off against each other, hoping to keep their chances of winning a trophy alive.

Following an early wave of optimism after the appointment of interim manager Ralf Rangnick, the atmosphere around Manchester United is once again gloomy and filled with negativity following their disappointing 1-0 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League earlier this week. The pressure is on the German to turn things around and get his team playing on the front-foot after some dull displays.

The Red Devils will be up against an Aston Villa side who also find themselves in a tricky position after a positive start to life under new boss Steven Gerrard. The Midlands club have lost four of their previous six matches, including their last two against Chelsea and Brentford. However, they have looked good under the former Liverpool captain and will back themselves to pile more misery on their opponents.

Last time around, Manchester United were eliminated from the FA Cup at the quarter-final stages by eventual champions Leicester City while Villa crashed out of the competition in the third round at the hands of Liverpool. Both will be aiming to go the distance this time out, and ahead of their first match-up in the tournament, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester United

Manchester United have been handed a boost as Victor Lindelof is back in contention after recovering from Covid-19. However, Paul Pogba remains sidelined with an injury while club captain Harry Maguire is also a doubt for the fixture. Eric Bailly is away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Ralf Rangnick has claimed that he will not undertake a full-fledged squad rotation for the FA Cup tie, but some changes could be made. Starting in goal, Dean Henderson is set to come into the lineup in place of first-choice custodian David de Gea. Raphael Varane and the returning Lindelof should pair up at the heart of the defence while Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles occupy the full-back slots.

Moving into the middle of the park, Rangnick could opt for his preferred duo of Scott McTominay and Fred to combat against the energy of the Villa midfield. Donny van de Beek, as a result, could be deprived of a starting opportunity yet again. Meanwhile, Bruno Fernandes, who did not start against Wolves, should feature and provide the link between the attack and defence. He should pair up alongside Jesse Lingard.

Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to feature from the get-go as Manchester United need their top-scorer on the pitch. He could, however, be in line for a change of partners, with Marcus Rashford likely to replace Edinson Cavani.

Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Henderson; Dalot, Varane, Lindelof, Telles; McTominay, Fred; Lingard, Fernandes; Ronaldo, Rashford

Aston Villa

Aston Villa will be without Marvelous Nakamba for the trip to Old Trafford while ex-Manchester United captain Ashley Young is a doubt due to a toe injury. Bertrand Traore and Trezeguet are unavailable due to international commitments. At the same time, new signing Philippe Coutinho, who signed on loan from Barcelona, is unlikely to be ready in time for the game either.

Steven Gerrard has vowed to field a strong starting XI at Old Trafford and should go in with his best lineup as his team have a great chance to get past Manchester United, who lack cohesion and structure in their play.

Emiliano Martinez, who has been linked with a move to Manchester United, should man the goal again. Matty Cash and Matt Targett will take up the full-back slots and look to put pressure on their counterparts by constantly pushing forward. Tyrone Mings should return at the heart of the defence after missing the last game, pairing up Ezri Konsa at the centre of the backline.

Douglas Luiz will anchor the midfield and look to nullify the influence of Bruno Fernandes while also providing forward thrust when in possession. He will have support from the energetic John McGinn, with talented youngster Jacob Ramsey set to take up the third slot in the middle of the park. Emiliano Buendia, Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins should form the frontline for the visitors.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Ramsey, Luiz, McGinn; Buendia, Ings, Watkins

Key Stats

  • Manchester United have won 10 of their 12 FA Cup meetings with Aston Villa, including each of the last six in a row since losing the 1957 final. 
  • Aston Villa have lost their last six FA Cup matches, their longest ever losing run in the competition.
  • Manchester United have won their last nine FA Cup home games by an aggregate score of 20-2. They are unbeaten in their previous 11 at Old Trafford in the competition since a 2-1 quarter-final defeat to Arsenal in 2014-15.
  • Aston Villa have already beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford this season (1-0 in the Premier League).
  • Manchester United have lost just one of their six matches under interim manager Ralf Rangnick (W3 D2).

Player to Watch

Bruno Fernandes

Ralf Rangnick’s decision to bench Bruno Fernandes for the game against Wolves sparked a lot of discussion in the footballing community, as well as rumours over his future. While the 27-year-old has not been in the best of form of late, his absence was felt by Manchester United, as they struggled to stitch up play in the attacking third – something that improved immediately after he came on.

So, heading into Monday night’s contest, all eyes will be on whether Fernandes makes a return to the lineup or not. Ideally, he should be reinstated to the side, but for him to win over his new manager, the Portuguese international will need to step up and show the kind of form that made him a cult hero at Old Trafford. A big game beckons the former Sporting CP midfielder.

Prediction

Manchester United 1-2 Aston Villa

Manchester United find themselves in a state of chaos just a month into Ralf Rangnick’s reign as interim manager. The Red Devils have been dour and toothless going forward more often than not while the vulnerability at the back remains. So, even though Aston Villa are coming on the back of two consecutive defeats, they will back themselves to put their hosts to the sword on Monday night.

Steven Gerrard’s side played some good football in their defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea and have the quality to hurt their FA Cup opponents. With Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings back after missing the Brentford clash, they are further strengthened, and The Hard Tackle is predicting the Midlands club to secure a hard-fought victory at Old Trafford, heaping further misery on United.

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