A last gasp win over Wolves and a dour draw against Manchester City. It seems Manchester United are not quite hitting top gear, but the only undefeated team in the country will be looking for a performance against Aston Villa at Villa Park that is as impressive as the statistics surrounding the match.
United have lost only one of the last 29 league meetings with Villa and the hosts have won only once in 27 games in all competitions. Those stats point to a clear United victory.
Sir Alex Ferguson will have a few issues to resolve with his team selection. Rafael looks unlikely to play as he is suffering from a dead leg, while Patrice Evra has an ankle problem and is also a doubt.
This could mean Wes Brown and John O’Shea filling in on either side of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Quite what that would mean for United as an attacking force remains to be seen, but they do not get up and down the flanks in the same way Rafael and Evra do.
With Paul Scholes suspended Sir Alex will have to decide whether to go with three men in the middle of the park or two. If it is the latter Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick are likely to get the nod, but if another body is needed then Fergie may be struggling for numbers as both Anderson and Darron Gibson are suffering from the virus that has swept through Old Trafford.
Nani made a quick return from his recent injury setback and looked as if he had never been out, so he will take up his usual spot on the right side. Ryan Giggs still remains a doubt due to a hamstring problem so Ji-Sung Park will probably continue in the midfield and lets hope he also continues his scintillating run of form.
Depending on the formation Ferguson goes with will dictate a Dimitar Berbatov – Javier Hernandez axis or the Bulgarian being a lone front-man. His performance against City was encouraging given his lack of service so he will definitely be in the line up.
Gerard Houllier renews a rivalry with United that goes back to the 90’s when he was in charge of Liverpool and he will no doubt relish the chance to end United’s unbeaten record, but at the moment he is still settling into his new surrounding s and is slowly getting his footballing philosophy across.
Interestingly enough Houllier achieved five successive victories over United in his spell at Anfield.
Villa though are a young side and this could well be something United exploit. In their recent match against Blackpool they only just managed a 3-2 victory while fielding their youngest line-up for over two and a half years.
It must also be remembered that the last time Aston Villa beat United at Villa Park was back in 1995 when United’s kids were given a baptism of fire and of course went on to win zero trophies didn’t they Alan Hansen?
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