It’s rare that Aston Villa visiting Old Trafford can spark so much chatter, but Manchester United have dominated the headlines since their loss to Manchester City midweek. Will the hosts be able to keep their cool as planes fly overhead and criticism swirls around them? (Watch live on NBCSN at 8:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra)
The last time Villa came to Old Trafford, Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick, giving United all three points – and the Premier League title.
Now, Manchester United are seventh, eighteen points off the pace and five points back of the European positions. Their Dutchman is out with injury. Fans are frustrated. David Moyes is acknowledging his squad just aren’t quite good enough.
So Villa should be able to take advantage, right? But the visitors are one of the most unpredictable sides in the league, beating Chelsea 1-0 before losing 4-1 to Stoke. Still, in addition to Chelsea, Aston Villa have managed to beat both Arsenal and Manchester City this season, and held Liverpool to a draw, so a result at United would not be out of the realm of possibility.
Paul Lambert has made just two changes from the side that lost to Stoke last weekend. Nathan Baker makes way for Ciaran Clark in a straight swap at center back. They’ll miss a bit of protection in midfield, as Karim El Ahmadi is out with injury, and Marc Albrighton offers little in the way of defensive cover.
For the hosts, however, a host of changes. Nemanja Vidić returns from suspension and Alexander Büttner steps in at left back. Moyes looks to be putting out a 4-4-2, so in come Darren Fletcher, Shinji Kagawa and former Villan Ashley Young. Up top, Juan Mata will play alongside Wayne Rooney – at least, that’s how United’s official Twitter has it.
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Vidic, Buttner; Young, Fellaini, Fletcher, Kagawa; Mata, Rooney
Subs: Amos, Giggs, Chicharito, Carrick, Nani, Welbeck, Januzaj
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Bertrand, Westwood, Delph, Albrighton, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
Subs: Steer, Sylla, Holt, Tonev, Bennett, Robinson, Lowton