Villa Preview: Don't Get Mugged By The Villains

With no time to really recover, Manchester United head to Villa Park for the early lunchtime kick-off on Saturday to face Aston Villa in the Barclays Premier League.

Following their nil-nil draw with Manchester City on Wednesday, United need to get a positive result from this match with Villa to keep pace with the other teams at the top of the league, but this was their bogey team from last year.

There was a time when Villa Park was a venue that Sir Alex Ferguson relished going to, and Aston Villa was a team that we a sure three points, but that all changed last season as the hosts took four points off United in their two Premier League matches.

However, it proved to be third time lucky for United as the Reds finally got one over on them by escaping with a enthralling 2-1 win in the 2010 Carling Cup final last February.

On the other hand, the Villains will be full of confidence after they did well to secure a theatrical 3-2 win over Blackpool on Wednesday.

At Villa Park, the home side opened the scoring through Stewart Downing, but it was canceled out by Marlon Harewood on the stroke of half-time.Then young Nathan Delfouneso restored the Villa lead in the second-half, but DJ Campbell then leveled for the Seasiders three minutes from time, but defender James Collins netted the winner just two minutes later.

The three points took them level with five other teams with 16 points, but Villa’s poor goal difference (-3) leaves 10th in the Premier League standings, which is a position that the Birmingham club cannot argue with.

The Lions only have 13 goals scored in 12 matches this season, which is good for tied (with Liverpool) for 11th best in the league.

Coincidentally, Villa are in the same place in the goals conceded column, because they have given up 16 goals, which is level with Newcastle United.

Villa’s shaky start to the season could be down to their uncertainty that happened off it prior to the start of the season as Martin O’Neill, who has been tipped to be one of the men to potentially replace Sir Alex Ferguson, resigned for disagreeing with the owner about the direction that the club was heading.

O’Neill, who was in charge of Villa for four seasons, guided them from 11th place in the 2006/07 season to three consecutive sixth place finishes in the Premier League.

With Kevin MacDonald serving in the caretaker role, Randy Lerner was on a world-wide search until he finally found a long-term, suitable replacement in Gérard Houllier nearly a month later.

Apparently Houllier is still in the mindset from his days as Liverpool manager, because it has been reported he is going to try to link Emile Heskey with Michael Owen in the Villa.

Of course that was going to grab the United supporters attention, because the latter is on their payroll, but the former’s career seems to have been revived a bit, because of the TLC that Houllier has give him – something he has not given another Lions’ forward.

There has been a battle between Houllier and John Carew in the press, which led to the classy Villa boss labeling the big forward “stupid.”

Villa’s offensive output season has been surprisingly carried by two of their wingers – Downing and Marc Albrighton – who have almost half the team’s goals with four and two goals, respectively.

One sight that United fans did not want to see is Gabriel Agbonlahor returning from injury, and playing over 25 minutes against Blackpool, because the forward has always been a thorn in United’s side.

The young center forward scored four goals in four games against United – including the lone goal in their 1-0 win at Old Trafford last season.

Another player to that United need to keep an eye on is Ashley Young, because the pacey winger has both the ability to beat his opponent with speed, and provide a pinpoint, game-changing cross.

Villa has three Americans in their squad – with the old United antagonist, Brad Friedel, still going strong at 39 years of age, Brad Guzan as his reliable back-up and young Eric Lichaj, who made his Premier League debut on Wednesday.

Aston Villa’s club captain, Stiliyan Petrov, will miss the game through a long-term knee injury, and his void will not be filled by Nigel Reo-Coker, whose recent outburst against Birmingham City might have cost him his future at Villa Park.

One player is already ruled out the match with is Paul Scholes, who has already accumulated five yellow cards this season, so he is forced to serve a one-match ban.

The suspension of Scholes can be seen as a good thing for Darron Gibson or Anderson, because it will give a chance for either of them to perform their way into getting a run of games.

Ferguson’s first-choice full-backs, Rafael and Patrice Evra, could be eliminated from contention following their early withdrawals due to injury against City.

It was said that Wayne Rooney would spend a week in America and then be considered for the Villa match, but it might be too much to include him.

Manchester United’s squad will be tested with the injuries and suspension ahead of the match with Aston Villa, but, like against Manchester City, the class of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men should shine through.

Out: A. Valencia (leg), O. Hargreaves (hamstring), M. Owen (hamstring), Rafael (leg), W. Rooney (ankle); Doubtful: R. Giggs (hamstring), Anderson (knee), P. Evra (ankle)

E. van der Sar; W. Brown, R. Ferdinand, N. Vidic, J. O’Shea; M. Carrick, D. Fletcher, J. S. Park, Nani; D. Berbatov, J. Hernandez

Aston Villa 0 Manchester United 1

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