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Manchester United Opponent Preview: Aston Villa  

Manchester United are in action in the first Friday night fixture of the Premier League, against Aston Villa at Villa Park live on BT Sport.

Match kick off: 14/08/15 – 19:45 – Sky Sports 1 HD

Manchester United gear up for their second game of the new season with an away trip to Aston Villa. See below how the two sides match up.

Villa Last Season

On the 11th of February, 2015, Villa were 18th in the table after 5 wins, 7 draws and 13 losses. This warranted the dismissal of Paul Lambert and the acquisition of Tim Sherwood as manager.

In Sherwood’s 13 games he led Aston Villa to 5 victories, a draw and 7 losses, thus keeping them safe from relegation by 3 points. Considering the poor timing of Sherwood’s appointment, just after the transfer window had closed, he did very well to keep Villa up.

1st Game Back

Aston Villa opened their 15/16 Premier League season away to newly promoted Bournemouth lining up in a 4-3-3 formation. Despite being dominated in: possession; goal attempts; free kicks; corners and; throw ins, Sherwood’s men pulled off a 1-0 victory.

The starting line up for The Villans had 6 new faces including beast centre back Micah Richards, who Sherwood managed to snap up on a free, which was a fantastic bit of business. Richards was appointed captain in their first game and put in a man of the match performance.


Aston Villa’s Playing Style

Villa play by trying to keep possession in their own half, and then bursting forward and getting crosses into the box. The cross from anywhere around the box but tend to use their swift wingers to deliver the ball into the box.

When defending, Villa will absorb pressure with many men behind the ball. They don’t take chances and often opt to put the ball out of play rather than waiting for the attacker to put a pass astray.

Their goal against Bournemouth was the result of persistent crossing into the box, which resulted in them winning a corner. Villa have many big strong players, such as Gestede, Richards and Clark, who all pose aerial threats on set pieces.

History v The Red Devils

Manchester United are unbeaten against Aston Villa in their last 12 match ups. Of those 12, only 3 have resulted in draws, all of which took place at Villa Park.

Both teams started the season with 1-0 wins, but United didn’t score to seal their victory. It is arguable that Rooney was most probably going to score without the intrusion of Kyle Walker’s left foot. Villa’s goal was the result of a cross which Rudy Gestede headed home.

United’s Challenge

United’s defence will have to be alert at Villa Park. They’ll most likely have the speed of Agbonalahor and Sinclair blasting past them on either wing and, big Rudy Gestede throwing himself at every ball that comes into the box. Gestede is expected to start, given his game changing performance last week, after coming off of the bench.

Gestede is a monster and stands at just over 6’3’’ so the only logical marker for him, given his 6’4’’ frame and his solid performance last week, is Chris Smalling. He should be able to match him for speed and in the air, neither of which Blind could do, with him being dwarfed by the big Frenchman.

De Gea is said to, once again, not be starting this week. Hopefully Romero can put in another good performance. His shot stopping reactions will be tested as a lot of Villa’s shots are expected to come from within the box.

Aston Villa’s quick wing play will cause huge problems for Luke Shaw. So far, Shaw has failed to show any kind of defensive capability, often relying upon Young or Blind to cover for him. This will not work well against Villa. If he fails to track back or block the run of the winger, then they will be allowed create goal scoring opportunities.

In attack, Manchester United didn’t create too many problems for Spurs last week. They need to take the game to Villa’s defence, put them under pressure, and be far more clinical with their shots.

Schneiderlin sitting in front of the defence again should cancel out any of Villa’s attempts to play the ball through the middle so the game will be won, or lost, on the fall back’s abilities to deal with quick and skilful play.

Optimal Manchester United Line-Up

GK – Hopefully De Gea, but most likely Romero.

LB – Blackett. He is far more defensively assured that Shaw, but the later is more likely to start.

CB – Blind is the obvious choice but if Rojo is fit then his physical presence would make him a better candidate over Blind in this match up.

CB – Smalling

RB – Darmian

CM – Schneiderlin

CM – Carrick seemed to fade in midfield with Schneiderlin’s dominant performance so maybe a more attacking option like Herrera or Schweinsteiger would be better, to link the attackers and the midfield.

LW – Young

AM/CF – Depay showed lots of enthusiasm last week, which will hopefully still be in him against Villa. If his shooting is more accurate this week, he should be allowed to play the full game.

RW – Despite a weak performance against Spurs, Mata should prove to be United’s best option on the right.

ST – Rooney‘s best scoring record is against Aston Villa. In 27 games he’s scored 15 goals and set up a further 6. He should improve upon his tame performance against Spurs last week.


If Shaw starts I can’t see United keeping a clean sheet. The centre backs and keeper will be under far too much pressure from dangerous crosses to not let one slip by. Hopefully he’ll prove me wrong but I can’t see that happening.

Rooney will have a tough time against the mighty Micah but, historically, this is his best fixture. If: Young doesn’t have to work back too much; Mata can play to his usual standard and; Depay looks to pass instead of shoot from range, then Rooney should get plenty of chances to score.

If Gestede starts, he will pose a big threat in the box; a threat that an in-form Smalling should be able to deal with, provided that he marks him all game, including on set pieces. The Frenchman is too dangerous to be allowed space in the box.

I think that United will win 3-0, an early goal should knock the enthusiasm out of Villa’s team, allowing United to control the game from midfield. I’m going with a Rooney goal, and a lot of corners. Villa have a gung-ho mentality at the back, where it’s better to put the ball out of play then to allow an attack to gain ground. I’m also backing a Smalling goal. Just because.

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By Ben

Recently graduated university, life now revolves around sports, and writing about sport.

Has an intricate knowledge of Ice Hockey and World Football but also dabbles in American Football and Heavyweight boxing.

He's a very versatile and hard working writer, who uses exceptional English in each article.

Trying to get his name out there to hopefully become a professional sports writer.

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