Following Leicester City‘s 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Tuesday, Manchester United will be looking to close the gap to fourth place to just one point, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men step up their Champions League quest.
As things stand, United’s current position of fifth should be enough to see Champions League football return to Old Trafford with Manchester City banned from European competitions for the next two seasons. But the Red Devils will want to secure a top-four finish to guarantee a spot, should Man City win their appeal against the ban.
Hosts Aston Villa will also be looking to close the gap on the team above them to a point, but for the Dean Smith‘s side it’s a fight against relegation. Villa are currently 18th with five games remaining and are four points behind Watford after the Hornets‘ vital win over Norwich City on Tuesday night.
Unfortunately for Villa, however, their record against United makes for bad reading, last beating the Red Devils in 2009 – going on a run of 15 games without a win since, losing 11 of those.
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Aston Villa & Man Utd’s confirmed line-ups and live stats:
Aston Villa & Man Utd’s previous line-ups:
- Aston Villa (vs Liverpool): Reina; Konsa, Hause, Mings, Taylor; El Ghazi, Luiz, McGinn, Trezeguet; Grealish; Davis.
- Man Utd (vs Bournemouth): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof*, Maguire, Shaw; Pogba, Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
Tyrone Mings and Jack Grealish are expected to be fit after suffering injury scares against Liverpool. Victor Lindelof is a doubt for the trip to Villa Park with a injury to his lower back, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not ruled him out completely.
Players to watch:
Aston Villa: Jack Grealish has been in the eyes of Manchester United for quite some time, and Thursday’s game could be his best chance to persuade the Red Devils to make a move. The Englishman has been Villa‘s standout star this season, but has also been one of the most difficult players to contain in the Premier League, being fouled 151 times so far – at least 45 more than anyone else. Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness recently claimed this was due to Grealish holding onto the ball too much, adding that he would have loved to play against the Englishman.
“If I was a player, I wouldn’t want to be the most-fouled player in the league,” Souness said.
“That means I’m holding onto the ball too long. That means I’m not seeing the picture early enough, I’m taking extra touches when I don’t need to. There is no doubt about it.
“He has ability and he’s easy on the eye, silky on the eye. But I am yet to be convinced by him.”
Can’t please everyone 🤷🏻♂️ https://t.co/Ozu0Tb8YTn
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish) July 6, 2020
Man Utd: The Premier League break could have come at a bad time for Man Utd with Bruno Fernandes hitting his stride after joining in January. But the Portuguese midfielder has been playing as if there wasn’t a break at all, not losing a step in helping United push for a top-four finish. Since the Premier League returned in June, no player has been directly involved in more goals than Fernandes who has scored four goals and recorded two assists. It is the same amount as Chelsea winger Willian, and the Brazilian has played one more game.
But Fernandes’ importance to Solskjaer‘s side is more than just his goal involvements, with the Portuguese midfielder also contributing to the defensive work and linking up well with Man Utd‘s young attackers.
Asked which United player excites him most last week, club great and the Premier League’s all-time record assist-maker Ryan Giggs said: “[It’s] 100% Fernandes since he came in.
“He excites me because every time he gets on the ball he’s looking to make something happen. And it doesn’t always come off but that’s a United player. Gambling.
“But it’s not easy to do. But I think when I was older, I could handle it. I always looked for that killer pass. Van Persie there on the shoulder? Try it. One or two times it might not come off and all of a sudden there’s a groan around. But you’ve got to be able to handle that and keep trying, keep knocking at the door.
“I don’t know if you remember the last couple of minutes of the Norwich game just before we scored when he was chasing back.
“He’s a player who makes things happen. He’s a No.10. And I watched him after he’d sprinted back and he didn’t walk back up the pitch. He was knackered obviously but he wanted to win the game. I loved it.”
Watch the full interview on the Webby & O’Neill Youtube channel
Scoreline prediction: Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd
Premier League 2019/20 recent form:
- Aston Villa: DLDLL
- Man Utd: WDWWW