A second meeting in just a few days, Man Utd will be hoping to fare a lot better than they did on Sunday. The Red Devils will have gone into their game against Aston Villa on a high having beaten Real Sociedad to extend their unbeaten run to nine matches, but it came to an abrupt halt at Villa Park. Two goals conceded inside 15 minutes gave Man Utd a mountain to climb and although they pulled one back just before half time, the Red Devils were unable to prevent the eventual 3-1 defeat.
The defeat leaves Man Utd in fifth, three points behind Tottenham albeit with a game in hand, but attention now turns to the EFL Cup. Since winning the competition in 2016/17, Man Utd have had a mixed bag of results in the EFL Cup; they have twice reached the semi-finals, had one run to the quarter-final, but also two third-round exits. Last season brought the latter, a 1-0 defeat to Premier League rivals West Ham, which will have felt slightly fresh compared to the back-to-back semi-final exits to Man City.
As well as drawing them slightly further away from the relegation zone, Villa’s 3-1 win over Man Utd at the weekend went some way to proving they made the right decision in sacking Steven Gerrard. In his first full season as Villa manager, Gerrard was struggling and at the time of his departure had them just outside the relegation zone with two league wins from 11 and three from 12 across all competitions. Since his departure, Villa have won two and lost one (a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Newcastle), with the 3-1 victory over Man Utd being the first game of Unai Emery’s stewardship.
The man known for winning the Europa League will get his first taste of cup action as a Villa manager on Thursday night, and will be hoping the club down falter in the early stages again. Although they already have a win over Bolton in this season’s competition, Villa have only made it past the third round in four of the past 10 campaigns. During that run, there have been three third-round exits, two in the second round and one in the first. But there have also been two semi-final appearances and two fourth-round exits. Last season they did fall at this stage, however, beaten by fellow Premier League side Chelsea on penalties.
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Man Utd vs Aston Villa match stats
The weekend’s game was very much the early show, with Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne putting Villa 2-0 up after just 11 minutes. By half-time it was 2-1 with Jacob Ramsey unfortunately netting an own goal, but that was most of the attacking action done. Ramsey made amends for his own goal in the second half to restore Villa’s two-goal advantage, while also being just the sixth time Man Utd had conceded in the second half of a Premier League match this season.
With managers trying to manage loads in this packed fixture period ahead of the World Cup, there is likely to be some rotation on Thursday, which could see Danny Ings start. The striker was a substitute at the weekend but has had at least two shots on target in three of his past four starts for Villa.