David Moyes and his Manchester United side are aiming to pick themselves out of the gutter after a dreadful 3-0 defeat against rivals Manchester City in midweek as Aston Villa make the trip to Old Trafford.
This fixture last season saw United record a comfortable 3-0 victory featuring a first-half Robin van Persie hat-trick to claim a record 20th Premier League title but less than a year later, the Reds languish in seventh place and a huge 18 points behind leaders Chelsea, with Moyes enduring a nightmare since succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.
Tuesday night was the lowest ebb so far, as United were consigned to a 10th league defeat this season, and their sixth at home, and came just over a week after another hiding, this time at the hands of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool, which has left Moyes under massive pressure ahead of Aston Villa’s visit.
The embattled Scotsman again claimed the players are hurting after their latest defeat and stated that the fans are firmly behind him in his pre-match press conference while Wayne Rooney has called for a ‘reaction,’ but the narrative has been similar all season with a rare victory frequently seen as a false dawn amidst a season of huge despair.
There have been mooting’s of a fans protest during the Villa game. The controversial ‘Chosen One’ banner had to be guarded by stewards after the match and the atmosphere in and around Old Trafford was on the verge of being toxic and it is clear that the beleaguered Moyes can ill-afford many more losses between now and May.
Nemanja Vidic is available for the hosts after serving his suspension but Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling could come into contention. Nani could make his first appearance after a lengthy hamstring injury and the team is likely to be selected with the midweek visit of Bayern Munich in mind.
Aston Villa currently sit nine points clear of the relegation zone and are probably just one win away from being safe from the drop for another season. It’s been a fairly mixed year for Paul Lambert’s young side by all accounts with the Midlands based outfit appearing to be something of a Jekyll and Hyde act (United know the feeling).
Ashley Westwood and Fabian Delph have both had good seasons in midfield while up top, Gabby Agbonlahor offers plenty of pace on the counter.
Andreas Weimann, who scored twice against the Reds at Villa Park last season, could return to action after a dead leg but Karim El Ahmadi will be absent with a thigh problem. Libor Kozak and Jores Okore are on the long-term injury list.
United boast a fabulous record against Saturday’s opponents having won 26 and lost just one of their 35 previous league meetings and Lambert’s side have not been victorious on their travels since New Years Day.
However, United have been underwhelming at home with their six losses at Old Trafford this season one of the main reasons why the Reds are where they are in the league. Coupled with Villa’s impressive record against the top teams this season having beaten Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea and drawn with Liverpool, it could be a tough afternoon.
Another loss ahead of a big week could make David Moyes’ position untenable but United should have just about enough to see off Aston Villa.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Villa