It was a festive stroll at Old Trafford. A Christmas walk in the park. We were 2-0 up, United were shellshocked and Villa were in complete control. Even now it’s difficult to fathom quite how we fashioned a defeat on Boxing Day (2023).
Still, such occurrences are now history and we must move on, but then… “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. It’s been a period of indifferent individual and team form since for Villa, with a 5-0 away victory at Sheffield United, sandwiched between two sub-par defeats to Newcastle and Chelsea respectively.
Emery must be scratching his head, as a number of players are struggling not only for form but consistency too. The latter is something that is the key component of sustaining the progress of the season to date and realising the ambition of attaining Champions League football.
United come to Villa Park still a mere shell of the force that they once were. They’re seemingly now in a revolving door or transition, players and Erik ten Hag is the latest manager struggling to avoid the shadow of Alex Ferguson’s achievements being cast upon him. They’re a massive club, no doubt, but they’re trailing in footballing terms to the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and local rivals City. Indeed, they must be unsettled at the likes of Villa, 8 points clear of them this campaign, and for my money, with a clearer strategy for year-on-year improvement.Embed from Getty Images
In the here and now United are an unpredictable beast. They arrive at Villa Park looking to secure a fourth consecutive victory, but that’s offset by the fact they’ve won just one of their last five away from home. They’ve lost 3 of those incidentally, perhaps underlining the discontent regarding overall on-field progress at the club.
Villa are boosted by the return to availability of both Pau Torres and Lucas Digne. Torres, who has demonstrated his footballing qualities already, has been a big miss at the heart of Villa’s defence. The Spaniard has been nursed back after getting injured following a premature return, we can only hope he can stay fit.
Digne, who had been written off by some in the close season, delivered many outstanding displays and was arguably as big a loss through injury. If match fit, it’s not inconceivable that Moreno will drop out after a glut of out-of-character showings.
Simply put, the priority needs to be to try and break out of the stagnation that has crept in of late. Be it fatigue, an enforced change in personnel or that the opposition is now studying us more closely; we have to find a remedy and a catalyst in order to re-build momentum in the league.
The next opportunity for this is against United, this Sunday afternoon, in a 6 pointer at B6.
EMERY IN QUOTES
“The message is the same as last week at Sheffield United. The Premier League is about consistency over 38 games. Our main objective this season is to be consistent. We are being consistent. Each match is so special. Sometimes a key moment can matter. It’s an important match. This match we are playing for six points.”UNAI EMERY
Aston Villa 1-0 Manchester United
Goal Scorer: Ollie Watkins