In-form sides United and Villa clash in an entertaining top five start to the New Year
Manchester United to win 3-1
One consistent feature of title winning teams over the years is the ability to score late winners in game where they have not played particularly well, but went on to secure three points, nonetheless.
At times, it was a drab affair with neither United nor Wolves able to find the quality to put the game to bed, until Rashford’s late, deflected winner saw United rise up to 2nd in the table – it’s the closest they’ve been to the top at this stage of a season since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
They’ll face a much different opponent here, however.
Aston Villa are in 5th, not far off the top themselves and are enjoying a fantastic run of form. Other than City, they have the tightest defence in the league, but are also scoring well too.
It could be an end-to-end encounter at Old Trafford, something which could suit either side.
Form Guide (all comps): WWWDW
Reasons to be cheerful:
Finding ways to win, whether they play well or not
Won seven of their past nine league games
Reasons to be fearful:
Will rotate players again, which can damage consistency
Aston Villa have been excellent away from home
Manchester United will face another stern test of their title credentials in their first match of the new calendar year, but for different reasons.
Wolves were incredibly organised defensively and gave away very few chances. Aston Villa have an excellent defence, but also pack a real punch going forward. No side have conceded as many goals in the top half of the league than United, so they’ll have to be at the best to shut Villa out here.
The Red Devils have the 10th best home form in the league, while Villa the 3rd best away form, also showing the strength of United’s opponents and their own desire to improve their performances at Old Trafford.
United’s strength is, of course, going forward, with only Liverpool scoring more than their 31 goals. With Rashford, Cavani, Fernandes and others among the goals, they will be confident they can blow anyone away.
Star Man – Marcus Rashford
Ended a brilliant 2020 with a bang – United’s joint top scorer keeps going from strength to strength and looks a threat every time he gets the ball.
Form Guide (all comps): WDWWD
Reasons to be cheerful
Have the tightest defence in the league
Three wins from five has taken them to 5th
Reasons to be fearful
United’s attack will cause them real problems
Not beaten United since 2009
Aston Villa are playing their best football in many years, conceding few and scoring plenty, with a well-balanced side containing some top footballers.
Their draw against Chelsea showed their mental resilience, coming from behind to secure a point which takes their unbeaten run to five matches. They have the tightest defence in the league, though the expectation is that this will come under severe threat from United’s fearsome attack.
Villa will also need to overcome their dreadful record against United if they are to secure anything here – they haven’t beaten United in almost 12 years, with just one win coming since 1999 in the League Cup.
It’ll be a stern test for the Villains, but they have the ability to cause a shock as they proved against Liverpool earlier in the season.
Star Man – Jack Grealish
Has scored against United before and will be confident that his ability can trouble their inconsistent defence
United are favourites but will be an even match
Both sides will go for it from the start
Likely that both sides will score
This game has goals written all over it, despite Aston Villa’s tight defence.
Manchester United are in such good form, especially going forward, that they will expect themselves to put several past Villa and take the match away from them.
Having said that, Villa have caused upsets in the past, particularly their 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool back in October.
In reality, United should be too strong, but don’t rule out a twist or two in the tale.
Manchester United to win 3-1