After a weekend of varied results that included a fair number of upsets (LOL @ Newcastle), Villa head to Old Trafford for the final tie of the FA Cup 3rd Round.
This will be an intriguing game, with Villa still a work in progress under Steven Gerrard and Man Utd looking far from convincing under caretaker manager Ralf Rangnick. There is also the unpredictable nature of how routine Covid results may impact which players are available, those suffering any after-effects or are simply isolating.
Prior to Villa’s defeat away at Brentford, things had been very rosy for Gerrard. Indeed, the team had looked rejuvenated and was competitive even in the losses to Man City and Chelsea. The loss last time out served to remind us that there is much to improve on the field and how shallow the squad depth is in certain positions.
United are once again in a strange spot. Rangnick was a surprise temporary appointment for a club that was going nowhere under predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjær. The ‘godfather of gegenpress‘ is already coming in for scrutiny, especially after a late defeat and poor performance overall against Wolves last week.
It was Rangnick’s first loss, but our hosts had hardly been tearing trees up either. Whilst Villa should certainly not under-estimate our opponents, we visit them at a good time, with their style of play confused and simmering discontent on the terraces.
We also go into the game lifted by the loan signing of Philippe Coutinho. Though the Brazilian will not feature, such a statement of intent will hopefully serve to motivate the team and illustrate the ambition of our owners. The former Liverpool and Barcelona midfielder will ironically likely make his debut in Villa’s next league fixture against United next Saturday.
Though Old Trafford isn’t the scene of many away victories, Villa were victors in this season’s earlier league fixture in Manchester, courtesy of a late Kortney Hause header. We will need a repeat of that outcome if we are to progress to a 4th Round home tie against Middlesbrough and keep alive the hope of lifting a trophy last paraded in B6 in 1957.
KEY MATCH FACTS
- Utd last won the FA Cup in 2016, defeating Crystal Palace.
- Villa beat Man Utd in the 1957 final.
- This is the first of a double-header between the sides.
- The game will be decided on the night; no replays!
- Villa beat Utd 1-0 at Old Trafford in September.
- Pogba, Martial, Maguire and Bailly are all absent for Man U.
- Rangnick has indicated he will field a strong team.
- Steven Gerrard has confirmed he’ll name “strongest” side.
- Ollie Watkins (Illness) & Tyrone Mings (Susp) return for Villa.
- Kortney Hause and Ashley Young are injury doubts.
- Bertrand Traore & Trezeguet are away at AFCON.
- Marvellous Nakamba & Leon Bailey are out injured still.
- Utd are 6 places and 9 pts ahead of Villa in the PL.
- This is the 5th time in 20 years the teams meet in the 3rd Round.
- Man United have defeated Villa on all 5 occasions.
- Steven Gerrard has lifted the FA Cup twice as a player.
- Kick Off Time: 19:55 GMT
- Watch: Free Online Stream Here [UK]
PREDICTIONSEmbed from Getty Images
Is there such a thing as a good time to play United? We have to hope so and though Villa arrive at Old Trafford off the back of 2 consecutive league losses, the moods around the clubs couldn’t be more different. Whilst Villa’s performance at Brentford left much to be desired, in Gerrard we have a manager with a winning mentality and for whom defeats of that nature just won’t do.
United, from an outsiders perspective at least, appear far from the club they need to be to be competing at the top end of the division. They’ve also lost the aura and cloak of invincibility which they carried throughout their dominant years. Rangnick remains a puzzling appointment and our hosts tactics, team selections and player purchases similarly so.
Make no mistake though, this is far from a straightforward fixture. United are still a team with individual quality and are a club likely looking at the FA Cup as their most realistic means of securing silverware this season. For many Villa supporters, the FA Cup remains the last remaining trophy they are to see the club win in their lifetimes. 1957 is a long time ago, but why not this year? Villa have some of the best odds of victory in recent times given our progress and United’s malaise and you can find a full match betting preview here. For a more in depth look at the betting our friends at Free-Bets.uk.com have done the leg-work, be sure to check them out.
Score Prediction: Man Utd 1-2 Aston Villa
4TH ROUND DRAWEmbed from Getty Images
In a quirk of both the modern FA Cup and current fixture congestion, the draw for the 4th Round has already taken place.
The winners of this fixture have been drawn at home to face Championship side Middlesbrough.
Boro, managed by former Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder, beat League 2 side Mansfield Town to progress. Ties will be played between the 4th and 7th February 2022.
Visit out dedicated Villa transfer hub for the latest news and rumours:
IN QUOTESEmbed from Getty Images
“…as a player and a manager you have to analyse where your realistic ambitions are. Where we stand, the Cup is the only chance this season of winning something.
“We have to give this game everything we have got and leave everything on the pitch.
“Yes, we have important games on the league on the horizon, which we will respect.
“But while I am Villa manager we will approach every cup game with respect. I can guarantee that.”STEVEN GERRARD, ASTON VILLA MANAGER
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