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Preview: Manchester United vs. Aston Villa

Preview: Manchester United vs. Aston Villa

Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s Premier League clash between Manchester United and Aston Villa, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Condemned to their worst set of pre-Christmas results for 93 years, an off-colour Manchester United return to Old Trafford for a Premier League Boxing Day battle with title-challenging Aston Villa.

The Red Devils’ plight continued in a 2-0 defeat to West Ham United over the weekend, while the Lions’ magnificent winning home run came to an unexpected end in a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United.

Match preview

Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag on December 23, 2023© Reuters

Neither the home contingent nor travelling supporters got their money’s worth in the first half of Saturday’s London Stadium affair between West Ham and Man United, but come the full-time whistle, ex-Red Devils boss David Moyes was full of Christmas cheer against his erstwhile employers.

With Erik ten Hag‘s toothless team doing little to trouble Alphonse Areola in the Irons goal, West Ham delivered two sucker punches through Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus to consign Man United to an eighth loss of the top-flight term, and a 13th in all tournaments before December 25 for the first time since 1930-31.

That year, the 20-time English champions were relegated from the top flight, and while their situation is not quite so dire 93 years later – Ten Hag’s outfit sit eighth at the time of writing – a four-game scoreless streak for the first time since 1992 is truly alarming.

Since deservedly putting Chelsea to the sword on December 6, Man United have come up short against Bayern Munich, West Ham and Bournemouth while holding Liverpool to a praiseworthy goalless stalemate, not that such brief defensive fortitude counted for much on Saturday lunchtime.

After going without a Premier League defeat at Old Trafford for 12 months between August 2022 and August 2023, Man United have since been beaten in four of their last seven top-flight home fixtures at the Theatre of Dreams, although they stand alone with a record 21 Boxing Day wins in the Premier League.

Sheffield United's Cameron Archer scores against Aston Villa on December 22, 2023© Reuters

The Red Devils’ overall total of 53 Boxing Day league wins is only seven superior to that of second-placed Aston Villa in English league history, as the Lions have 46 triumphs to their name on December 26, and Unai Emery‘s men were firm favourites to record a 16th Premier League home victory in a row when Sheffield United came to town.

However, former Villa attacker Cameron Archer did what Arsenal and Manchester City could not as he made the net ripple with 87 minutes on the clock, and only a last-gasp header from Nicolo Zaniolo seven minutes into added time prevented the Blades from leaving with a precious three points.

With fellow title hopefuls Arsenal and Liverpool also sharing the spoils on Saturday evening, victory for Villa would have allowed them to spend Christmas Day atop the Premier League rankings, but Emery’s side remain in the bronze medal position with a one-point disadvantage to make up to the Gunners.

Zaniolo’s late intervention at least allowed Villa to stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 matches, a streak which has seen Emery’s men score twice in each of their last three Premier League away games, but their only top-flight clean sheet on the road so far in 2023-24 came against Chelsea in September.

Aston Villa came up trumps at Old Trafford as recently as September 2021, where the Stretford End were subjected to an Emiliano Martinez dance show, but Man United have won their three most recent contests at the Theatre of Dreams, where Bruno Fernandes was the difference in a 1-0 April success.

Manchester United Premier League form:

Manchester United form (all competitions):

Aston Villa Premier League form:

Aston Villa form (all competitions):

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Manchester United attacker Rasmus Hojlund after picking up an injury on November 11, 2023© Reuters

Following reports of a sickness bug sweeping through the West Ham squad before their 5-0 loss to Fulham, Man United’s squad has now been ravaged by a virus, which all of Rasmus Hojlund, Raphael Varane and Anthony Martial had been suffering from before the defeat to the Irons.

Hojlund was only able to complete 57 minutes of Saturday’s game, where neither Varane nor Martial were present – the former’s place was filled by 19-year-old debutant Willy Kambwala – but Christian Eriksen was able to come on for the second half after battling back from a knee issue.

Diogo Dalot will return from suspension on Tuesday too, but an overflowing treatment room still holds Amad Diallo (knee), Lisandro Martinez (foot), Mason Mount (calf), Harry Maguire (groin), Victor Lindelof (unspecified), Casemiro (thigh) and Tyrell Malacia (knee), while Jadon Sancho is still not being considered for selection either.

While Man United have a right-back returning from the naughty step, Aston Villa’s Matty Cash is now banned on account of picking up his fifth yellow card of the new term against Sheffield United, and he joins the already-suspended Boubacar Kamara on the absentee list.

With Pau Torres‘s availability also up in the air due to a knock, Emery will likely shift Ezri Konsa to right-back and partner Diego Carlos with Clement Lenglet, unless former Arsenal man Calum Chambers is offered an increasingly rare Premier League start.

Emiliano Buendia (knee), Tyrone Mings (knee), Bertrand Traore (muscle), Youri Tielemans (calf) and Robin Olsen (knock) make up Villa’s confirmed withdrawals, and none of them should return before the New Year.

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
Onana; Dalot, Evans, Varane, Reguilon; McTominay, Eriksen; Antony, Fernandes, Garnacho; Rashford

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Konsa, Carlos, Lenglet, Moreno; Zaniolo, McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey; Diaby, Watkins

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We say: Manchester United 1-1 Aston Villa

Not since the 1978-79 campaign have Man United lost a Boxing Day home fixture, but unwanted records have been matched and broken left, right and centre for the Red Devils this season, and their meek attacking threat is often nullified far too easily.

Then again, Aston Villa are hardly the masters of defensive discipline away from home, and with the hosts’ beating of Chelsea proving that they are capable of turning up the Old Trafford heat when a response is required, we can envisage Ten Hag’s men capitalising on Villa’s rearguard concerns to claim a creditable point.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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