Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Aston Villa

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  • Man United have lost a club record 10 PL games this season
  • Villa have won just once in their last 34 league and cup games vs. United
  • United have only dropped points in 3 games, after taking the lead

The last time Aston Villa visited Manchester United, the Red Devils secured a comprehensive victory to seal the Premier League title.

What a difference a year makes.

On Saturday at Old Trafford Man United host Villa (Watch live on NBCSN, 8:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) with real turmoil engulfing the famous club. Fan groups have arranged to have a banner saying “Wrong One- Moyes Out” flown over the stadium during the game, as they protest against the poor season from United and their new manager David Moyes.

Following the 3-0 demolition from Manchester City in the Manchester derby on Wednesday, tensions have been high in the red half of Manchester.

On Friday Moyes stated that the majority of fans are still on his side, but this game will be more about the off-field action than the match itself, as the reaction the Scotsman gets at Old Trafford will be a telling sign as to how he’s really viewed.

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Looking at the match, Villa have only beaten United once in their last 34 league and cup games against the Reds and United have lost just once against the Villans since 1995. Some record. But as we know this season, going to Old Trafford isn’t as daunting as it once was, so Paul Lambert’s men will fancy their chances of causing an upset.

Nemanja Vidic will return from suspension, but Chris Smalling, Robin van Persie and Jonny Evans are all out injured for United. As for Villa, they may be without Karim El Ahmadi but Andreas Weimann is expected to play some part.

What they’re saying

David Moyes on criticism from his own fans: “I am witnessing great support inside the ground, I’m witnessing great support when I bump into supporters outside the ground. There’s a rebuilding plan underway. Anybody who has an understanding of the game will understand that it happens. The people who put me in the job here are top football people, who understand the game and know exactly what is required at Manchester United and exactly the kind of characters you need to run the club.”

Paul Lambert on Villa’s chances of winning: “Yes they might be having a hard time at the minute. But David is following one of the greatest managers of all-time. That is no mean feat in itself. Whoever went in there at the start of the season was always going to find it difficult because they have had incredible success over a 20-plus year period. They still have some great, great players there. It’s not as if they have become poor players overnight. You’re probably expecting them to come out firing on all cylinders this weekend but it’s our job to try and win and what we can do best is to try and hurt them. That’s our intent, to go up there and try and win.”

Prediction

In this dreadful season for United, its hard to predict any kind of positive outcome. Finishing in the top five would be a commendable achievement right now, how they mighty have fallen. But after that battering from Manchester rivals Man City, I expect a response from the Red Devils. Villa aren’t in that much danger of relegation, and aren’t great at the back either. I fancy Wayne Rooney to tear the Villans apart and give Moyes’ men a big win at Old Trafford.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.