Unai Emery will be keen to get his second coming to the Premier League off to a winning start when Aston Villa welcome Manchester United on Sunday.

Former Arsenal manager Unai Emery will hope to make it second time lucky in the Premier League when he takes charge of Aston Villa for Manchester United’s visit on Sunday.

The Spaniard’s time at The Emirates had its moments but proved to be underwhelming. He rekindled his reputation by leading Villarreal to the Europa League in 2021 before going on a dream run in the UEFA Champions League last season.

The Yellow Submarines were ousted by Liverpool in the semifinals but Emery proved his detractors wrong. With Steven Gerrard failing to deliver, the onus is now on him to salvage Villa’s season

The 51-year-old will be aware of the expectations put on him at Villa Park and a win against the Red Devils will certainly not be a bad way to temper it. Erik ten hag’s team have shown fight in them this season and arrives at the Midlands club seeking to make it four wins in a row across all competitions.

With a new manager and a clean slate on the cards, the time is now for Villa’s talented roster to make their case. An exciting summer saw the club bring in several players. While they have fallen short so far, there is time this season to turn things around.

A win will see the Villains move up the table, within touching distance of breaking into the top half. With the World Cup break coming up, Emery will be handed some time to inculcate his teachings to the squad.

Ten Hag, meanwhile, has quietly gone about changing Man United’s fortunes. The Red Devils are far from the force they once were but there are definite signs of improvement. They will be a different side from the one that capitulated after a two-goal lead last season at Villa Park.

But then so are Villa and it should prove to be an interesting game between two tacticians who could change their respective sides’ fortunes. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

Aston Villa

Diego Carlos continues his recovery from injury and is some way off from returning to action. It is not all bad news as Emiliano Martinez who suffered a concussion in the loss to Newcastle United should return to the starting XI.

Emery has also confirmed that Ludwig Augustinsson and Boubacar Kamara are both back in contention to feature on the night. Kamara’s return is extremely surprising given that he was expected to be out of contention until after the World Cup. While it is unlikely that he will be risked, a spot on the bench could be in the offing.

Augistinsson last played against Leeds United and will similarly be lacking in match fitness. The change in management should also give Morgan Sanson, a player largely overlooked by Gerrard, a new lease of life.

With only a little time on his hands to make a decision, Emery is likely to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation and play it safe. It should give him the players necessary in the middle of the park to put pressure on Man United and Erik ten Hag’s possession-based game.

Emiliano Martinez will start in goal behind the back four of Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and Lucas Digne. Douglas Luiz and John McGinn should form the double pivot behind the attacking midfield trio of Leon Bailey, Emi Buendia and Ollie Watkins. Danny Ings should start upfront as he seeks to impress the new manager.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne, McGinn, Luiz; Watkins, Buendia, Bailey; Ings

Manchester United

The Red Devils have shown fortitude of late but are yet to hit top gear. They have not lost at Villa Park in a Premier League match since 1995 and certainly have history on their side.

Ten Hag’s side defeated Real Sociedad in midweek but failed to finish top of their UEFA Europa League group. The focus will now shift to the domestic league as the Red Devils seek to go into the World Cup break in a strong position.

Ten Hag will be without several players on the night and will have decisions to make. Raphael Varane, Axel Tuanzebe and Brandon Williams are all out injured while Bruno Fernandes is suspended for the game.

Man United are sweating on the fitness of Jadon Sancho, Antony and Anthony Martial. A late call might be made on whether the three players will make the cut in time to feature.

The Red Devils are likely to set up in a 4-2-3-1 system that will emphasise possession of the football. David de Gea should start in goal behind the back three of Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw. Victor Lindelof could also come into the lineup should Ten Hag decide to bench Maguire.

Casemiro and Fred should provide the muscle in midfield with Christian Eriksen orchestrating play as the number 10. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga are likely to be deployed out wide with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw; Casemiro, Fred; Elanga, Eriksen, Rashford; Ronaldo

Key Stats

  • Manchester United are unbeaten at Villa Park in the Premier League since the 1995/96 season. This is the longest unbeaten streak one team has against another in the history of the English league.
  • Manchester United are winless against Aston Villa over their last two meetings. They have lost four points to the Villians over the two games, the same amount they had conceded in the previous 17 matches before that.
  • Aston Villa have not won consecutive home games in the Premier League since January 2021.
  • Aston Villa have failed to defeat a top-six opposition 13 out of the last 14 times in the Premier League The last time they got the better of one was against Manchester United in September 2021.
  • Aston Villa have scored just 11 goals in 13 Premier League games this season. This is the joint third-worst scoring record in the top flight so far. Only bottom-placed Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers have fared worse.
  • Manchester United have found the back of the net 17 times in the league this season, the worst record in front of goal of any team in the current top ten.

Player to Watch

Christian Eriksen

Can Christian Eriksen roll back the years? (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

With Bruno Fernandes out, Eriksen could be about to reprise his role as a number 10. He thrived in the role for both Ajax Amsterdam and Tottenham Hotspur, and has the vision and passing range to thrive in the role.

Man United have often lacked inspiration in attack this season and could be without three key attackers on the night. Eriksen’s ability to prise open defences could prove pivotal as the Red Devils seek to keep their winning run going.

Fred and Casemiro are capable of providing the Dane with the defensive protection needed to focus on his job upfield. How well he will link up with Ronaldo and co would be something to keep an eye on.


Aston Villa 1-1 Manchester United

Aston Villa should be fired up and should take the game to Man United thanks to the new manager syndrome. The home side are in desperate need of a win and should be keen to give their fans something to cheer about. Manchester United have been pragmatic of late but with some of their best attackers out, they could struggle against Villa.

As long as Emery plays his cards right, it could prove to be a scoring draw where both managers tactically cancel out each other.

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