Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is looking to take his squad to a seventh consecutive win on Saturday, but Aston Villa may prove a significant challenge to their attempted march to the top of the Premier League table. Paul Lambert and his Villa side face an uphill climb in light of reduced manpower from injury and suspension, but they are determined to get back on track at home after a loss last week that derailed their own winning streak. United may find it difficult to predict what to expect as Lambert cobbles together a lineup without key players, and there is still enough talent left to draw from to make it a difficult match.
Villa will be missing several players because of lingering injuries. Ashley Westwood is expected to be sidelined until January, and with Philipe Senderos, Joe Cole, and Libor Kozak also not fit to play, Lambert is starting in a hole. Add to that the suspensions for this match of Alan Hutton and Kieran Richardson, the Villa side projects to have a very different look. Not exactly the front fans are used to, if Jores Okore, Claran Clark, and Ron Vlaar are thrown up front for Villa, they might just pose enough of a scoring threat to give the United defense pause. There are enough question marks with respect to Lambert’s choice of formation that if Villa can come out and strike early before van Gaal’s squad has a chance to adjust, they may be able to grab an early lead to attempt to defend.
Possible scenarios aside, general feeling is that the United machine that has been on a roll for six straight victories will likely take the three points in this match. Sitting third in the standings, it will take a lot to break the momentum they have gathered. Coming off a great performance in his last match, Marouane Fellaini is expected to be absent due to illness, and Luke Shaw will not likely be fit enough to return on Saturday, but the roster remains largely intact. Though the United manager has been quoted as saying he is still looking forward to a “perfect performance” from his squad, they have been getting the job done in good form for weeks now. This is the best they have looked in quite some time. After the disaster of the last campaign, United fans are finally daring to have some optimism as they march toward the January transfer window. Though the pundits are dubious about the Red Devils’ chances of maintaining this pace, the club is determined to prove them wrong.
Saturday’s match is by no means a certain win for Manchester United. Aston Villa will do their best to present an unexpected challenge on their home turf. Though Lambert and his club’s best hope will lie in the juggling of the remaining fit players to make United guess at their game plan, Villa fans are maintaining optimism about their ability to pull it out. After six wins, some are saying that United is ripe for an upset. With their eyes on going into Boxing Day with their streak intact, however, United will without doubt make it an uphill battle for them.
Commentary By Jim Malone
Image courtesy of Treevls – Flickr License