Far from their fluent best in an opening-day victory over Tottenham, Manchester United will hope history holds enough to see them over the line in Friday’s Premier League trip to Aston Villa.
United have an incredible record at Villa Park, where they have not lost to Villa in the league since 1995, winning 12 of their subsequent 19 meetings.
Louis van Gaal is still shaping his squad for the season to come and David de Gea is once again unlikely to feature, with the Dutchman doubting his number one’s ability to perform as speculation over a move to Real Madrid rages on.
Sergio Romero performed capably against Spurs at the weekend and is set to continue in goal, while Bastian Schweinsteiger’s declaration that he is returning to full fitness this week will give Van Gaal further cause for cheer.
Only the suspended Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jones, out due to a blood clot, are United’s definite absentees.
Wayne Rooney will be another anticipating the fixture, having scored more goals -13 – against Villa than any other side in his career, while Pedro’s seemingly imminent arrival at Old Trafford from Barcelona could soon lift the goalscoring burden from his shoulders.
Both United and Villa began their campaigns with 1-0 victories as Tim Sherwood spoiled Bournemouth’s Premier League bow with a win at Dean Court thanks to a debut goal from Rudy Gestede.
Gestede was one of six Villa debutants in that game and another of them – Micah Richards – is relishing the chance to renew rivalries with United, after spending the best part of a decade at neighbours Manchester City before his pre-season switch to Villa Park.
Richards told Villa’s official website: “Obviously playing at City for so long, games against United were the big ones for me.
“You relished facing them for bragging rights in the city. I’m sure it’s the same when Villa play Birmingham City – you have to win these matches.
“Now I’m delighted to be at Villa but my affinity to this fixture is still strong. They’ll always be special games to me, coming up against United.
“I can’t wait for this first one at Villa. I wish the game was right now.”
Richards has been on the winning team against United five times in his career – including City’s jaw-dropping 6-1 win at Old Trafford in October 2011 – and will be a key player if Villa are to stifle Van Gaal’s considerable attacking talents having been deployed at centre-half by Sherwood, who has also made the England man his captain.
Sherwood remains without the services of attacking duo Carles Gil and Jack Grealish, respectively struggling with hamstring and ankle injuries.
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