Champions Manchester United face a tough trip to Villa Park this midweek to face an Aston Villa team with the best defensive record in the Premier League. This promises to be an intriguing clash with both sides in good form and may well be decided by how Villa’s mean defence copes with the league’s top scorer Wayne Rooney.
United and Rooney in particular are in top form ahead of this match. Not only has Wayne scored eight goals in his last six matches in all competitions but he also has an excellent record against the Villans. He has scored a total of five Premier League goals in his last six starts against Aston Villa and there is no striker in England looking better at the moment. Villa managed to keep Rooney out last time these teams met and with a defensive record like theirs, will be confident of doing it again.
Villa defend superbly as a team, the combination of Richard Dunne and James Collins in front of the ever-dependable Brad Friedel is as good as anything in the Premier League at the moment. Carlos Cuellar is also very solid as a right-back and means that few teams can match Villa aerially. The back four all know their jobs and are proper defenders, they keep their shape very well and put their bodies on the line week in, week out as perfectly illustrated at White Hart Lane when as a team they offered little going forward but defended superbly. Any team that can keep a clean-sheet at Old Trafford must be able to defend and United will not break them down easily.
Martin O’Neill’s team have kept four clean-sheets in their last five Premier League home games and have now gone four hours and 59 minutes without conceding. The problem for them has been scoring themselves as they’ve failed to net in their last three at home. Gabriel Agbonlahor will be the main threat to United as he has scored in the last four consecutive seasons against Manchester United in the Premier League including the winner at Old Trafford back in December. That win was Villa’s first league win against United since August 1995 and their first league win at Old Trafford since November 1983.
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If Villa were to win this one, they would achieve their first league double over the Red Devils since the 1954-55 season when they won 2-1 at home and 1-0 away under manager Eric Houghton. Both victories came in 1954 when the average house price in the UK was £1,970. This was also the year Roger Bannister ran the first sub four minute mile and post-war rationing finally ended. Needless to say, it has been a while.
Villa may have beaten Chelsea at Villa Park already this season but the way United are performing, I don’t expect them to beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. After all, United have won nine and drawn four of their last 13 league visits to Villa Park. In fact, the Villans have only managed three goals in those 13 encounters. The reigning champions have also won six and drawn one of their last seven Premier League matches so are full of confidence ahead of this clash.
I cannot see Manchester United losing but with a £30,000 Premier 10 jackpot up for grabs, I would cover my options with both the draw and an away win as this won’t be a comfortable trip for the away side. One single winner scooped the entire £30,000 Premier 10 jackpot at the weekend as the lucky Birmingham City fan predicted all ten Premier League matches correctly. Could it be you this week?