MX23RW : Thursday, January 17 12:00:38
Apr 16, 2016 at 3pm UK at ​Old Trafford
Attendance: 75,411
Man UtdManchester United
1-0
Aston Villa
Rashford (32')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Manchester United vs. Aston Villa

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Premier League clash between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford, with the visitors on the brink of relegation.

Aston Villa's fate is likely to be mathematically sealed on Saturday afternoon as they travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United.

The Villans go into the weekend 15 points from safety with as many left to play for this season, while United will look to get their top-four push back on track.


Man Utd

Louis van Gaal looks distraught during the Premier League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United on April 10, 2016© AFP

While their season doesn't compare to the misery Aston Villa fans have had to endure over the last seven months, United have also suffered a hugely disappointing campaign in 2015-16.

Expected to push on from their return to the top four last season, they once again find themselves embroiled in a battle just to make the Champions League - a battle they look like losing.

Four points is the gap to local rivals Manchester City in the final top-four spot after United's slip-up against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, when they conceded three goals in the space of six second-half minutes to fall to their first defeat at White Hart Lane since 2001.

It was a sign of both how far Spurs have come and United have fallen in recent seasons, yet against all the odds and despite persistent reports suggesting otherwise, Louis van Gaal remains in the job at Old Trafford.

Whether that would be the case if they do miss out on Champions League football remains to be seen, but with many fans desperate to see Jose Mourinho appointed this summer, any decision to keep the Dutchman would not prove to be a popular one.

His tactics were once again questioned last weekend when he brought Ashley Young on to play as the main striker in the second half, leaving Anthony Martial out on the left flank.

The result was their only defeat in their last six games, but they did return to form on Wednesday night to book their place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup at West Ham United's expense.

Another goal from Marcus Rashford, in addition to a Marouane Fellaini strike and more heroics from David de Gea, saw Man Utd win 2-1 in the last ever FA Cup game at the Boleyn Ground, setting up a Wembley showdown with Everton next weekend as they look to win the trophy for the first time since 2004.

Silverware and a top-four finish would certainly represent a good rescue job from United, and they will expect to take a step towards the latter this weekend having won their last four home league games, keeping three clean sheets in the process.

Indeed, United have kept 10 clean sheets from their 15 Premier League outings at Old Trafford this season, boasting the best home defensive record in the division having conceded only seven goals.

Recent form: WWLWWL
Recent form (all competitions): DDWWLW


Aston Villa

Eric Black ahead of the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Bournemouth on April 9, 2016© Getty Images

Saturday looks set to be the date that confirms what has been expected for a long time - Aston Villa will be relegated from the Premier League for the first time ever.

Their fate is not yet mathematically sealed, but realistically they are already dead and buried, with 15 points left to play for this season and 15 points also the gap to Norwich City in 17th.

Villa's dreadful goal difference means that the gap is effectively 16 points, and they could even be relegated before they kick off on Saturday should Norwich avoid defeat in the early match against Sunderland at Carrow Road.

It is hard to argue against this Villa outfit deserving their place amongst the Premier League's worst ever teams, having scored fewer and conceded more than anyone else in the league and won just three times all season.

Only two sides have ever managed fewer than their current tally of 16 points, which hasn't been added to since February 6, with Villa losing eight matches in a row since then, scoring just three goals and conceding 24 in the process.

It is a sorry state of affairs for a club that has won seven league titles, seven FA Cups, five League Cups and the European Cup during their history, and whoever takes on the manager's post this summer will have a huge rebuilding job on his hands.

Nigel Pearson is the new favourite to come in as Remi Garde's permanent successor, while David Moyes's name has also been mentioned as he looks to rebuild his own reputation in this country after his doomed spell at Villa's hosts this weekend.

Planning has already started for life in the Championship, though, and it is hard to see any circumstance where the inevitable will not happen this weekend. Villa have not won any of their last 17 away games in all competitions since the very first day of the season and have scored just five goals in their last 12 league games on the road.

Old Trafford is perhaps the worst place for Villa to visit in such circumstances considering their dreadful record against United, although on current form not many would back Villa to win at any ground in the division.

Last weekend saw them beaten 2-1 at home by Bournemouth in what Cherries boss Eddie Howe described as a "toxic" atmosphere, and it is unlikely to get any better for caretaker boss Eric Black as he goes down with the sinking ship.

Recent form: LLLLLL


Team News

Wayne 'have you got change for a twenty?' Rooney has a chat with Louis van Gaal during the FA Cup replay between West Ham United and Manchester United on April 13, 2016© Getty Images

United skipper Wayne Rooney came off the bench for the closing minutes in the midweek win over West Ham having missed two months with a knee injury, and he could be restored to the starting XI this weekend.

Rooney has scored 13 Premier League goals against Aston Villa in his career, but he faces a battle to be named up front considering the form of Rashford, who has netted six times in 11 appearances since breaking into the first team.

Fellaini joined Rashford on the scoresheet at Upton Park and he is another who has enjoyed himself against Villa, hitting more goals against them (four) than he has any other Premier League team.

Phil Jones is close to a return but is unlikely to start due to a lack of match fitness, while Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw, Adnan Januzaj and Will Keane remain sidelined.

Villa, meanwhile, could be without Jack Grealish after he picked up a knock, with the youngster and Libor Kozak both rated at 50-50 to make the matchday squad.

Gabriel Agbonlahor and Jordan Amavi are both out, however, while Jordan Lyden will be hopeful of retaining his place in the side having made his first league start for the club last weekend.

Man Utd possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Carrick, Mata, Rooney, Martial; Rashford

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Bacuna, Lescott, Clark, Cissokho; Sinclair, Sanchez, Gueye, Westwood, Richardson; Ayew


Head To Head

Manchester United have completely dominated this fixture in the Premier League era, losing just one of their last 40 meetings with Villa in the top flight (W29 D10).

The Red Devils are unbeaten in the last 13 meetings in all competitions since Agbonlahor scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 Villa win at Old Trafford in December 2009.

The reverse fixture this season also saw an away 1-0 win as Januzaj struck in a rare Friday night game back in August to give United two wins from two at the start of the season.


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We say: Man Utd 3-0 Aston Villa

It is hard to see anything other than a comfortable home win in this match. United have had their problems this season, but they have been good at home recently and are facing a side who gave up all hope of survival some time ago. The Red Devils also need a win to keep their Champions League dreams alive, so it would be a major shock if they were to do anything but cruise to victory.


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Who will win Saturday's Premier League clash between Manchester United and Aston Villa?

Man Utd
Draw
Aston Villa
Man Utd
85.6%
Draw
8.3%
Aston Villa
6.1%
Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson looks on as the players warm up prior to the Pre-Season Friendly match between MK Dons and Leicester City on August 4, 2014
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool22183150104057
2Manchester CityMan City22172359174253
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs22160646222448
4Chelsea22145340172347
5Arsenal22125546321441
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd22125544321241
7Watford229583232032
8Leicester CityLeicester229492625131
9West Ham UnitedWest Ham229493032-231
10Everton228683331230
11Wolverhampton WanderersWolves228592328-529
12Bournemouth2283113142-1127
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2275102430-626
14Crystal Palace2264122028-822
15Burnley2263132343-2021
16Southampton2247112339-1619
17Cardiff CityCardiff2254131941-2219
18Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2246121631-1518
19Fulham2235142049-2914
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2225151337-2411

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