Can Man United bounce back against Aston Villa?
We can’t take anything for granted with Manchester United at the moment. Both Everton and Newcastle have been to Old Trafford recently apparently without a cat in hell’s chance of winning for the first time in a generation, but they each came away with all three points.
Ferguson’s gone, United’s world has turned. So although Aston Villa have lost their last six Premier League games to the Reds and have actually beaten them only once in their last 35 encounters, we cannot automatically assume that they will crash out again in this Sunday afternoon’s televised clash.
Coral make Villa 7/2 to inflict a third successive defeat on the visitors, only the fourth time this will have happened in the history of the Premier League and the first time for 12 years.
And they must believe they are due after coming so close in the corresponding fixture last season, leading 2-0 before Javier Hernandez led a revival and scored a late winner.
Boss Paul Lambert will have been disappointed to have lost tamely to Fulham last week after going through November unbeaten, but they were perhaps unfortunate to catch the Cottagers ‘on the bounce’ after their managerial reshuffle.
Three wins on the road this season, including at Arsenal in the campaign opener, have enhanced Villa’s reputation as an effective counter-attacking unit and that style also enabled them to beat Manchester City at home.
United will most likely dominate possession and Lambert will be looking for the dangerous front three of Weimann, Agbonlahor and Benteke to hit them where it hurts on the break.
A Villa win would take them level on points with United in mid-table (and who would have thought that at the start of the season?), which is an added incentive and this could be thought of as an ideal time to take on the wobbling champions, especially with Robin van Persie sidelined.
And yet it would be a mistake to underestimate United. Yes, they have problems at the moment and will have until they sort out one or two key positions. And it’s far from certain that they will even finish in the top four (Coral go 6/4).
But it won’t take much for them to click into top gear again – as they did against Bayer Leverkusen just over a fortnight ago to devastating effect.
With their top scorer Wayne Rooney (evens to net again, 4/1 first or last) back after a one-game suspension and confidence bolstered after qualifying for the Champions League as group winners in midweek, this could be the start of a Premiership revival. Coral go 5/6 it’s business as usual at Villa Park, maybe 2-1 (15/2) or 3-1 (14/1).