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Betting Tips: Aston Villa v Man United

IT may only amount to five games, and include cup successes over Wigan and Newport, but Manchester United are unbeaten in 2024 and their shoots of recovery are best exemplified by a transformed Rasmus Hojlund.

On signing for the Reds for a hefty £72m last August right through to Christmas, the young Danish forward fired just five goals in 1475 minutes across all competitions, none of which were in the Premier League.

Since Boxing Day, he has converted five in six, with two assists thrown in for good measure.

Add in the continuing excellence of Kobbie Mainoo, whose influence and impact in the middle is growing all the time, and Alejandro Garnacho now affixing goals to his trickery, and it’s an improvement driven by youthful enterprise and endeavour, all of which bodes well for the future.

The average age of this terrific trio is 19.  

Furthermore, should victory be attained in the Midlands this Sunday it may even suggest a top four fight is in the reckoning, something that felt hopelessly beyond them for much of the latter half of last year.

Of course, such cheery sentiment should be tempered, because we’ve been here before, many times over. Indeed, for a decade and more United have seemingly been stuck in an endless cycle of false dawns and worrying descents into crisis.

So, for a fuller picture of who Erik Ten Hag’s men are at present the following must be acknowledged as well.

A routine bettering of West Ham at the weekend was only the second time in 2023/24 that United have beaten a side by more than a single goal margin in the league while at the back problems persist. They conceded twice at Newport and three times at Wolves. In recent weeks they have been breached three times from corners, saved by the woodwork on a further two occasions. The absence of Lisandro Martinez for six weeks minimum, after so recently returning from a foot injury is another big concern. By some distance, the Argentine is United’s best defender.

 

Still, it can be said without any degree of hyperbole that this is a club in decent shape right now, unquestionably the healthiest state they’ve been in for some time. Whether it’s enough to overly trouble Aston Villa at Villa Park however remains to be seen.

Villa’s loss to Newcastle last week came as a shock to the system, it being their first defeat on home soil in the league for just shy of a calendar year.

Yet, listening to supporters and perusing the forums, it is clear that a jolting to their momentum has been on the cards, the fans becoming increasingly frustrated at Unai Emery’s reluctance to rotate.

Across a busy festive period, over-used players looked jaded, worn thin.

How then do we explain their emphatic deconstruction of an admittedly poor Sheffield United on Saturday evening? Wounded pride perhaps? A determination to show they still have plenty left in the tank?

Whatever the motivation it was an impressive performance throughout, with Ollie Watkins making it 23 goal involvements for the season and the team racking up 10 shots on target. For all this though, pertinently, Emery highlighted the intensity shown. “Our aggression was fantastic,” he said post-match.

And it was, Villa retaining a stranglehold on proceedings for the full duration and from any number of positives, Leon Bailey stood out and not for the first time. Averaging 2.5 successful dribbles per 90 this term, the Jamaican is a world beater on his day and coming up against an out-of-sorts Luke Shaw could find some joy down the right.

 

Elsewhere, Youri Tielemans’ showings of late have gone unfairly under the radar, the midfielder winning possession 2.2 times per 90 and inevitably Watkins deserves a shout, even if his track record against United is hardly sensational.

It should be noted too that Villa are decent front-runners, picking up 42 points from 45 after being ahead on 15 occasions and they may well extend on those numbers this Sunday. Only Manchester City have scored more goals in the first-half of games.

 

Or maybe not, if we recall where those three missing points derive from, at Old Trafford in the corresponding fixture on Boxing Day. Then, the visitors shot into a two-goal lead only to be undone by a rousing comeback courtesy of goals by Garnacho and Hojlund. Which takes us right back to the beginning.

Goals can be anticipated at Villa Park, that much at least can be said with some confidence. United’s last five games have produced 4.4, while Villa’s last five have harvested 3.8 per 90 and that includes a 0-0 stalemate.

Their last five meetings have gifted four multi-goal thrillers.

And Bruno Fernandes will be heavily involved in some capacity, that’s another near-cert.

The Portuguese schemer boasts nine goal involvements in nine vs Villa and has been booked on four occasions against them. Moreover, he has been cautioned every third game this season.

BETTING: Back Fernandes to get a card this weekend @ 27/10
           

STE’S ACCA

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