Manchester United will be looking to build on their 2-1 victory at Liverpool before the international break with a home win over lowly Aston Villa.

Three points for Louis van Gaal’s side would see them either extend their lead over fifth place, overtake Arsenal, or both with the Gunners meeting Liverpool in Saturday’s lunchtime game.

Aston Villa have found some form since hiring Tim Sherwood but start the weekend only three points above the drop zone.

Team News

Manchester United

Chris Smalling came off in the first half of England’s draw in Italy on Tuesday through illness. Manchester United could be hoping he’s fully fit as Marcos Rojo was all the way out in California and could therefore be jaded. Likewise, Daley Blind played twice in four days for the Netherlands and Antonio Valencia was in LA with Ecuador.

Jonny Evans continues his suspension for spitting at Papiss Cissé.

Louis van Gaal has his whole midfield available, and key players Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Ashley Young did not get called up for international duty so will be fresh for the weekend.

Robin van Persie is out injured once again, a blow considering his impressive goalscoring record versus Aston Villa.

Aston Villa

Tim Sherwood has a lot of injury concerns in defence. Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos returned to training this week and it’s down to the manager whether he decides to risk either centre-back or save them for Tuesday’s relegation encounter with Queens Park Rangers.

The newspapers reported Jores Okore to be a doubt with a knee injury earlier this week whilst Nathan Baker has been out with a knee injury.

Tom Cleverley is ineligible to face his parent club. Joe Cole has only just returned from injury – this game should come too soon for him. Libor Kozák is still not ready to return after being out for more than a year.

Predicted Lineups

We think Louis van Gaal will rest players who were travelling far away from Europe over the international break. Paddy McNair was an unused substitute for Northern Ireland in their win over Finland (and can still go on to play for the Republic of Ireland) so he could come in at right-back for Antonio Valencia. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling can continue their partnership in centre defence and Luke Shaw is available at left-back. Three of this midfield five were rested during the break, whilst Marouane Fellaini performed very well for Belgium.

We’re going for Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark to be the centre-back pairing for the visitors with Ron Vlaar saved for Tuesday’s clash. César Sánchez travelled far during the international break so we see him being rested for Ashley Westwood to partner Fabian Delph in midfield. Tim Sherwood otherwise doesn’t have to worry as much as his opposite number regarding players returning tired or injury from international duty.

Key Matchups

Wyane Rooney vs Ciaran Clark
Wayne Rooney loves scoring against Aston Villa and with injuries in their defence and a defence that hasn’t been very good this season, the United captain may be getting on the scoresheet once again this weekend. We’re not big fans of Ciaran Clark either, so watch out for Rooney to get in goalscoring positions on Saturday.

Juan Mata vs Matthew Lowton
Juan Mata scored a brace to guide Manchester United to three points over Liverpool last time out and certainly has the ability to be the man of the match this weekend too. Both Aston Villa left-backs, Matthew Lowton and Aly Cissokho have picked up knocks recently which won’t do them any favourites in trying to keep the Spanish playmaker quiet, and picking him up on those runs from deep he makes into the penalty area.

Marouane Fellaini vs Ashley Westwood
Aston Villa would be short of a powerful midfielder should César Sánchez not start this one. The presence of Marouane Fellaini has caused a number of defences problems this season. The Belgian, who scored for his country last weekend has been a target man for long balls into the penalty area this season which he has been able to bring down, flick on and score a couple of goals from. Don’t be surprised if he heads home a set piece in this match either.

Key Stats

12 – Wayne Rooney has scored 12 Premier League goals against Aston Villa. The Manchester United captain has only scored as many versus Newcastle United.

31 – Manchester United have 31 Premier League wins versus Aston Villa – tied for the highest number of wins verssu a single opponent in the league’s history (along with their 31 wins versus Everton).

95 – Wayne Rooney has scored 95 goals at Old Trafford for Manchester United – the same number of goals Alan Shearer scored in the Premier League for Newcastle at St James’ Park (the former England captain also scored twice there with Blackburn Rovers).

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