The hangover from celebrating Christmas may on the agenda for many come Boxing Day, but for Manchester United, that hangover has been looming since their 2-0 defeat to West Ham United over the weekend.
Will it be a knockout blow for Ten Hag’s reign? Will a surprise win glisten over the cracks? It’s been such an unpredictable Premier League season that you just could not bet on either.
Villa are flying high this season, and head into the game comfortably in the Top Four. Despite impressive wins against Manchester City, Arsenal and Brentford, they could only salvage a draw against Sheffield United in their last fixture.
The Red Devils on the other hand, have little to play for this season despite it only being December. The FA Cup remains their only slim hope of silverware, whilst the battle to finish in the top four is going to be a mountainous task looking into 2024.
The bright side is that the news of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s takeover of football operations has finally been confirmed, so there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
For Erik Ten Hag, he cannot afford to look beyond the next game as his team have suffered the worst start to a season since 1930, with plenty of room for improvement.
Here is the expected lineup for Manchester United on Boxing Day:
André Onana is expected to start for United, as he draws closer to departing for AFCON next month.
Diogo Dalot should return to the starting lineup after serving his one match suspension.
Jonny Evans didn’t put many feet wrong against West Ham, and should start again in the absence of other fit centre-backs.
Raphael Varane is expected to have recovered from the virus that went around the United squad before the last outing and should start.
Luke Shaw should expect to start another game, as Tyrell Malacia’s return draws closer.
Scott McTominay has recently been starting aplenty times, and should carry that streak on.
Christian Eriksen returned for a cameo against West Ham, and should be given a start ahead of Kobbie Mainoo.
Antony has been enjoying a streak of starts recently as well, yet will be hopeful to offer offensive contributions.
Bruno Fernandes will captain the side and is readily available after returning against the Hammers.
Marcus Rashford came off the bench and should expect to start ahead of Alejandro Garnacho, who has quietened down as of late.
Rasmus Højlund was not able to complete the full game last time out, as he also suffered from the virus. He is still searching for his first Premier League goal and any kind of service to be fed from.