Manchester United extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to nine matches with a last gasp 1-0 win over Wolves at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Now they head into their first game of 2021 against Aston Villa knowing that an eighth victory in 10 matches will see them move level on points with Liverpool at the top.
It’s a remarkable run of form from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side who, prior to this unbeaten streak, was coming under pressure following a sluggish start.
The only surprise was that the win over Wolves was just their third in eight outings at Old Trafford this term.
However, Villa, who have won five of their seven away matches – losing just once – will be well aware that their hosts have won their last two on their own turf after thrashing Leeds United 6-2 earlier in December.
With a rare five-day gap between facing Dean Smith’s side and an EFL Cup semi-final against Man City next Wednesday, it will be interesting to see what players Solskjaer opts for on New Year’s Day.
Here we predict the Manchester United starting XI to take on Aston Villa…
Despite doing well in his appearances since returning to Old Trafford, Dean Henderson is still firmly the back-up and ‘cup ‘keeper’ behind David De Gea. The Spaniard secured his fourth Premier League clean sheet of the season against Wolves and will be aiming to kick of the new year with a fifth against a free-scoring Villa side.
Solskjaer selected to play Eric Bailly alongside Harry Maguire against Wolves. It was the Ivorian’s second Premier League start in a row and he will likely keep his place next to the skipper against Villa. Aaron Wan-Bissaka returned from injury in the week and is also expected to start but Alex Telles, who was substituted for Luke Shaw on Tuesday, will probably drop out from the start in favour of the Englishman.
United’s rotation system in midfield is working wonders at the moment. Whatever combination Solskjaer selects, it simply seems to be paying off. Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba did the job against Wolves but we expect the duo of Fred and Scott McTominay to return for this one. Bruno Fernandes, who registered yet another assist against Wolves, can’t be left out and will again start in his number 10 role.
Edinson Cavani got the nod to start in midweek but the 33-year-old’s three-match ban begins against Villa so he will be unavailable. This means Anthony Martial will be restored to the number 9 role with Wolves match-winner Marcus Rashford once again operating on the left side of attack. On the opposite wing, Dan James is expected to be recalled after impressive performances against Leeds and Leicester City.
Predicted Manchester United XI vs Aston Villa: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay, Fernandes; James, Rashford, Martial.