On Sunday, as Manchester United hosts Aston Villa at Old Trafford, they will continue their endeavor to secure a spot in the top four of the Premier League. Aston Villa is one of the main competitors of United in the race for Champions League qualification, and the two teams are currently separated by a margin of six points before the weekend’s fixture.
Manchester United’s inconsistent form in recent weeks continued on Thursday, as they surrendered a two-goal lead to draw with Tottenham Hotspur, under the management of Erik ten Hag. Although United had an impressive first-half display, it marked the second time this month that they failed to secure a victory from such a commanding position. Their recent Europa League game with Sevilla was another disappointment, as they lost 5-2 on aggregate after being 2-0 up in the first leg. However, United bounced back by securing a place in the FA Cup final after beating Brighton & Hove Albion on penalties last Sunday.
Returning to Old Trafford should provide United with some confidence, as they have the longest unbeaten home record in the top-flight, having not lost a game in 25 matches dating back to their September defeat to Real Sociedad in the Europa League. During this impressive run, they have conceded only eight goals.
However, Aston Villa is expected to offer a tough challenge as United has failed to win any of their last three Premier League encounters. Moreover, Villa is unbeaten in their last 10 matches, accumulating an impressive 26 points during that period.
Emery has broken a record as the first manager to oversee his team score in all of their first 20 Premier League matches in charge. In November, his Villa side comfortably defeated United 3-1 in his first game in charge, giving them the chance to achieve their first double over the Red Devils in 68 years. Emery has never lost a Premier League match against United, having faced them four times. Moreover, as Villarreal manager in the 2021 Europa League final, the Spaniard also came out on top against them.
Despite having played two more games than their upcoming opponents, a victory against United would bring Villa within three points of the top four. They won this fixture 1-0 last season, with a late missed penalty by Bruno Fernandes proving costly for United. However, this win remains Villa’s only victory in their last 11 visits to Old Trafford. Not since the inter-war period has Aston Villa won consecutive league games at Old Trafford, but they are well-prepared to do so.
Man United will have to wait for late fitness tests to determine whether Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire will be available for selection. There are also significant defensive issues for Ten Hag to address, with Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane out for the rest of the Premier League campaign, though the latter is expected to return in time for the FA Cup final. While Alejandro Garnacho is close to making a comeback, it may be too soon for him, and Donny van de Beek is out for the season.
Aston Villa’s Matty Cash (calf) and Philippe Coutinho (thigh) are nearing returns, but the pair may be out for another week. Boubacar Kamara is still sidelined with an ankle injury, and Leon Bailey is also out with a hamstring issue.
Despite failing to score in their previous away game against Brentford, Ollie Watkins had previously scored in six consecutive away games for Villa. He also found the net in an EFL Cup match at Old Trafford earlier this season.