9th November 2012
Aston Villa may have struggled at the start of the season, but back to back wins over Swindon Town and Sunderland should get the team in the right mood for the visit of Manchester United. The Red Devils climbed to the Premiership summit thanks to a four-match winning run, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men now hoping to make it five on the bounce.
Having flirted with relegation last season under Alex McLeish, Aston Villa were expected to enter the new campaign with a heavily reinforced squad, but fans’ calls for big name signings were not answered. The club chiefs did spent more than €25 million on new players, but apart from Christian Benteke and Ron Vlaar, all other signings have failed to prove they have what it takes to play at this level. With the obvious lack of quality in midfield and defence, Aston Villa didn’t need a lot of time to prove they would be in for another very difficult season. Paul Lambert’s side may have won their last two games, but Capitol One Cup triumph over Swindon Town and away victory over out-of-sorts Sunderland are just not enough for me to trust Villa to get something from the clash with the Premier League leaders. Karim El Ahmadi returns from suspension, which cannot be considered a great boost given the midfielder’s latest showings, but Eric Lichaj is now banned. Joe Bennett is doubtful through injury, while Darren Bent is definitely out.
Manchester United continue to reap rewards of the brave decision to snatch Robin van Persie from arch rivals Arsenal, with the Dutch striker proving integral to Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans this season. In spite of the serious defensive crisis, the Red Devils boast a big strength in depth at the moment, which has seen them do well on all fronts this term. Sir Alex Ferguson probably can’t remember the last time his side started the Champions League campaign with four straight wins, while the fact his team are also topping the Premiership standings is another reason for optimism ahead of the trip to Villa Park. Following the comfortable win over Arsenal, Fergie managed to rest the likes of Carrick, Van Persie, Cleverley, Ferdinand and Rafael in the hard fought victory over Braga, with Chris Smalling’s return another huge boost for the club. The former Fulham defender will now make way for Rio Ferdinand, provided Jonny Evans recovers from injury, but Shinji Kagawa, Nani, Nemanja Vidic and Phil Jones are all out.
Having experienced so many problems against much weaker opponents than Manchester United, Aston Villa are clearly in for a tough task as they prepare to welcome one of the best sides in the Premiership. The Red Devils appear to be on top of their game at the moment and they can be trusted to record another comfortable win.
Verdict: Away win Manchester United (2)
Best Odds: 8/15
Bookmaker: Paddy Power