Erik ten Hag, the manager of Manchester United, claimed that his team ‘lost focus’ on Thursday when they allowed a two goals advantage to slip away and drew with Tottenham. The Red Devils have recently struggled to maintain control of games after losing to Sevilla two weeks ago, but they are still in a strong position to finish in the top four with two games remaining and a six points lead over Tottenham and Sunday’s opponents Aston Villa.
This season, Fortress Old Trafford has been very tough to penetrate, with United unbeaten in 25 games (W21, D4) on their home field since September 2022. In spite of the absence of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martnez, they have only given up eight goals there this season, and their 14 overall clean sheets indicate that they are a difficult team to beat. Ten Hag’s team has scored 48 goals in the Premier League (PL), which is just one more than any other team in the top nine, so the defense may need to be at its best.
The team in question is the visiting Aston Villa, who trail by two goals with 46 and are in an incredible run of form, so they won’t be deterred by traveling to the Theatre of Dreams. A far cry from the disastrous start to the season they had under Steven Gerrard, Unai Emery’s team is unbeaten in ten Premier League games (W8, D2), their longest such run at this level since 2011. As a result, they are now firmly in the battle to finish in the European spots this term.
Villa is at ease on the road as well, having gone undefeated in each of their last five away games (W3, D2). The last team to defeat them on the road was Manchester City, and this is not a place where they flourish given that they have only triumphed once in their last 11 visits to Old Trafford (D1, L9), while United has defeated them more frequently than any other team in Premier League history (37 times). A victory here would give Villa their first ever PL double over the Red Devils after their 3-1 triumph over them in last November. Villa have avoided loss in each of the previous three league games (W2, D1).
Marcus Rashford scored for United in the middle of the week, continuing his recent run of form. He also scored against Villa this season in a 4-2 EFL Cup triumph, continuing a very impressive personal head to head record (W6, D1, L1). Ollie Watkins, a Villa teammate and fellow countryman, hasn’t scored in two games following 11 goals in the previous 12 games.
To determine whether they will be eligible to be selected for Man United today, Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire will undergo late fitness tests.
Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez’s Premier League seasons are ended, but the latter is anticipated to return in time for the FA Cup final, so Ten Hag faces additional glaring difficulties in defense.
Alejandro Garnacho is nearing a return for United, but given that Donny van de Beek is out for the year, it might be too soon for him.
Aston Villa’s Matty Cash (calf) and Philippe Coutinho (thigh) are both getting closer to returning, although they might still be sidelined for at least another week.
Both Leon Bailey and Boubacar Kamara continue to be sidelined due to injuries to their hamstrings and ankles, respectively.
Ollie Watkins was held at bay by Brentford in their previous away game after scoring in six straight road games for Villa, although he did score in an EFL Cup match here earlier this season.
Possible starting lineup for Manchester United
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Shaw, Dalot, Casemiro, Eriksen, Fernandes, Antony, Rashford and Sancho.
Possible starting lineup for Aston Villa
Martinez, Young, Konsa, Mings, Alex Moreno, Dendoncker, Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Buendia, Ramsey and Watkins.
We predict: Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa
An in form Villa team will challenge Man United’s impressive home record, but Ten Hag’s team hopes to break their three games losing streak in regulation time here.
Emery will bring his Villa team to Old Trafford full of confidence and say that they can grab a victory, but it will be challenging considering United’s home form.