Manchester United welcome Aston Villa in the Premier League on April 30th in a game that is crucial to the both clubs’ European hopes.
Erik Ten Hag has the club on the brink of UCL qualification, sitting at 60 points after 31 games, a point behind and a game in hand on Newcastle who are third.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, have experienced a remarkable turnaround since the appointment of Unai Emery, soaring from relegation threat to favourites for European qualification. They are fifth, level on points with Tottenham at 54.
Here’s the all-encompassing match preview that has unexpectedly become a marquee game due to Aston Villa’s turnaround
Manchester United vs Aston Villa preview
While Manchester United would have marked this game as a definite win when Villa were struggling under Steven Gerrard, they are anything but fragile now. Since Unai Emery’s appointment, only Manchester City and Arsenal have taken more points than his side.
Emery memorably got his reign off to a fiery start with a 3-1 win against Manchester United. They haven’t looked back since.
Villa will fancy their chances against a tired United side that is increasingly showing signs of running on fumes.
The Red Devils conceded twice against Tottenham to succumb to a 2-2 draw after taking a two-goal first-half lead. This has happened repeatedly this season, with such happening against Sevilla at home in the Europa League ultimately proving to be United’s undoing.
Aston Villa also have nearly two days of extra rest which should prove to be pivotal in the dying stages of the game. One respite for Manchester United would be that they came through the Spurs game without picking up any new injuries.
However, fatigue and the short turnaround time between this fixture and the game against Spurs means Erik Ten Hag might be forced to bring in fresh legs for this one.
Aston Villa have the upper hand in this regard as well. Unai Emery has managed his squad superbly and their lack of other commitments has ensured Aston Villa never faced a fixture logjam this season. They have no injury worries.
Manchester United vs Aston Villa prediction
While this fixture has potential banana skin for the home side written all over it, United have always turned up this season at Old Trafford. Buoyed by the home support, with the prospect of tightening their grip on the Champions League places, expect Ten Hag’s charges to come flying out of the traps to pin back Aston Villa early.
Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, scorers in the last game, will look to trouble the quality but slow centre-back duo of Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side, United’s makeshift CB pairing of Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw might finally break up due to fatigue. Harry Maguire, whose position at the club is under threat, could come in to tackle the aerial threat of Villa players, particularly on set pieces.
The United defenders will need to be on full alert to the movement of Ollie Watkins who has found another gear to his game under Unai Emery.
Expect this to be a nervy affair where United take the lead, and tough it out in the ending minutes as Aston Villa throw the kitchen sink at them.
Prediction: Manchester United 2- 1 Aston Villa