Friday 3 April 2015

Match preview: United v Aston Villa, Saturday 4th March

Sandwiched between two of United's biggest games of the season and hot on the heels of an international break this fixture against the Villans is almost something of an anomaly. 

It may not come with the magnitude or prestige of the Reds last two games (and with the Manchester derby looming a week on Sunday) but it is no less significant and is vitally important both for us and our opponents as the season enters its final month. 

Villa have been flirting with relegation all season and looked doomed five weeks ago, but the West Midlands outfit are revitalised under new boss Tim Sherwood and served notice of their improvement in their last away trip with a crucial 4-0 win at Sunderland. 

Their main problem has been in front of goal- they have only notched 19 all season- but they have a talented squad and will not be pushovers with powerful Belgian Christian Benteke the main attacking threat. 

Jonny Evans serves the fourth match of his ban, Robin van Persie and Luke Shaw are nearing returns but will not feature on Saturday and Chris Smalling is doubtful after coming off in England's friendly in Italy with illness. 

There are no other injury concerns but the hectic international break may influence Louis van Gaal's selection. 

The manager will need to decide whether to retain the same XI that impressively beat Spurs and Liverpool, or consider the demands that travelling has placed on his charges and make changes.

Speaking on Friday, van Gaal said: 

"I have a good feeling that we can continue in this run, I have seen the performances of all our players in training and that gave me a very good signal for the game against Villa.
"When I saw my players performing for their countries I was very pleased.
"Every match they play can give them belief and confidence.
"Fellaini will probably play and Valencia also after the international games, Robin is coming back on the training pitch and Luke Shaw has been back on there for a week already, but match rhythm is very important so I cannot consider them to play in this game.
"Smalling was ill in the internationals I believe, so I have to wait and see if he can train today (Friday)- but it is very close to the game so it will be touch and go."

Match odds: United 1/3 Draw 4/1 Aston Villa 8/13 
Form guide: United L W W L W W Aston Villa L L W W W L 
Referee: Roger East 

RVP's memorable hat-trick against Villa sealed United's 20th title in 2013 

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