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.

Injuries aren’t halting Red Bulls from proving to be MLS’ top club

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It would have been understandable if the New York Red Bulls dropped their heads in agony last month after the club’s disappointing CONCACAF Champions League defeat to eventual tournament winners Chivas de Guadalajara.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Vieira close to signing contract with Nice ]

That wasn’t the case though, and for manager Jesse Marsch and Co., the club has been rewarded in the biggest of ways for its perseverance.

Sunday night’s 3-1 win over Atlanta United proved once again in 2018 that this season’s Red Bulls are the class of MLS for a number of reasons.

The team’s 7-3-0 start is its best in modern Red Bulls history, which dates back nine seasons to when Red Bull Arena was first opened in 2010.

Marsch and his group currently ride a four-match win streak, which includes away wins over LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Atlanta, with a 4-0 beatdown of rivals New York City FC bunched in the middle of the road trip.

It’s easy to look at wins and losses to determine which teams are serious MLS Cup contenders and others that will struggle throughout the season, but when diving deeper into this Red Bulls team, there are a lot of special qualities that make them different than previous years.

Heading into 2018, questions surrounded the team following Sacha Kljestan’s departure for Orlando City, as well as the club’s ability to defend with a back line that didn’t appear to have much depth.

The Kljestan question has not only been answered, but turned into Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra becoming a household MLS name and legitimate MVP and Newcomer of the Year candidate.

The Argentine (possibly turning Paraguayan) leads MLS in assists (9) through the Red Bulls first 10 matches, after Kljestan posted 17 for the club during the 2017 campaign.

Kaku is a spark plug that manages to find himself in the right positions on the field at any given moment, and his work rate perfectly matches what Marsch his instilled in the squad since the moment he first arrived.

Defensively, the Red Bulls have far exceeded expectations, conceding the fourth-fewest goals (12) in MLS, despite a host of injuries.

Jamaica international Kemar Lawrence went down with a scary injury on Sunday, leaving his immediate availability with the club unknown, while Homegrown player Kyle Duncan will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

That’s not including outside back Connor Lade, who has battled an ankle injury early in the 2018 campaign as well.

While the addition of Kaku has paid dividends in the biggest of ways in the attack though, it was the Red Bulls ability to bring in center back Tim Parker from the Vancouver Whitecaps that has really changed the team’s outlook at the back.

Parker has formed a strong bond with fellow central defensive partner Aaron Long, and the two are easily the best center back pairing in MLS through the opening two-plus months.

The bigger test for the club in the long-term will be if Lawrence does miss significant playing time, though.

That would force Marsch to rely more on Lade, who only returned from injury on Sunday to replace Lawrence, or young outside back Ethan Kutler, unless the Red Bulls manager opts to switch to a three-back system (as he has done in the past).

Nainggolan ends Belgium career after World Cup snub

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As World Cup squads fill out their rosters ahead of next month’s great tournament in Russia, a number of high-profile names won’t feature at the World Cup.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Spanish Chelsea trio ]

Belgium named its 28-man provisional squad on Monday, which includes Premier League stars Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, however, one notable midfielder was left out of Roberto Martinez’s squad.

Radja Nainggolan won’t be on the plane to Russia next month for the Red Devils, who take on England, Panama and Tunisia in the group stage.

That decision by Martinez has prompted the AS Roma midfielder to end his international career, which Nainggolan revealed in a social media post following the announcement.

Martinez commented on the Roma player’s omission from the roster.

“Radja is a top player,” Martinez said. “The reason is tactical. In the last two years the team has worked in a specific manner. Other players had those roles.

“We know that he has a very important role in his club and we cannot give him that role in our squad.”

Emery set to replace Wenger at Arsenal

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Unai Emery will be the next man up for Arsenal, with the BBC calling it a “unanimous choice” from Arsenal’s search committee.

[ MORE: Nashville hires ex-Liverpool CEO ]

The BBC’s David Ornstein is reporting that Arsenal will appoint the ex-PSG and Sevilla boss as its new manager.

Emery had massive success with Sevilla in tournament and league play, and led PSG on a rollicking run through Ligue 1 but was deemed replaceable thanks to a Neymar-less loss in the UEFA Champions League.

The Basque manager will be the first Arsenal manager not named Arsene Wenger since the Frenchman took over at the Emirates on Oct. 1, 1996.

It feels a natural fit, as Emery has had success with multiple systems at both favorites and relative underdogs.

Emery has also overseen Spartak Moscow, Almeria, and Valencia.

Mikel Arteta and Thierry Henry were also rumored as potential Wenger successors.

Transfer rumors: Willian, Alderweireld to Manchester United

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The transfer rumor mill is picking up steam this Monday, including some persistent whispers regarding two Premier League players with possible futures at Old Trafford.

Both of these make a lot of sense.

[ MORE: Nashville hires ex-Liverpool CEO ]

A day after Nemanja Matic stressed the need for experienced players at United, two good fits hit the rumor mill (again).

Matic’s old Chelsea pal Willian has interest from United if he seeks a way out of London — which seems likely — where he’s said to be ready to go if Antonio Conte remains as manager.

Then there’s Toby Alderweireld, whose been very strong at Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur but reportedly fallen out with current Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.

During a rut, the Tottenham manager claimed that Alderweireld was held out of Spurs’ lineup due to the form of the players in front of him.

Also from Sky, we’ll leave this quote from PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi on the idea of possibly selling Kylian Mbappe.

Al-Khelaifi told Canal+: “You want me to give you a number? More than €1bn! Yes, I said one billion! And even if you gave me a billion, I wouldn’t sell him.”