A rare Friday night encounter sees Aston Villa and Manchester United look to build on narrow opening day successes in a fixture which the hosts have not won since 1995.
Tim Sherwood began with five debutants as Villa made a tentative start amid a carnival atmosphere at Bournemouth, but they improved as the match wore on and had another of their new boys to thank for handing them the three points as Rudy Gestede came off the bench to make the most of his aerial prowess. It was the ideal start to the season for a side that has undergone significant change over the summer.
Gestede has big boots to fill after Christian Benteke’s departure for Liverpool, but he is more than capable of giving the visitors plenty of problems here. Man Utd have often struggled when coming up against a physical presence in attack, and provided he gets quality service from wide positions, he could prove a successful acquisition in the long-term. The battle on the left between Idrissa Gueye and Matteo Darmian also promises to be a fascinating one.
It was hardly exhilarating stuff from Man Utd as they edged to victory over Tottenham in a surprisingly tentative clash to kick-off proceedings for 2015-16, but they had the better of the key moments and punished a mistake to register a bizarre winning goal. Memphis Depay drifted in and out of the game and Morgan Schneiderlin was solid enough on his debut, but Darmian was the debutant that manager Louis van Gaal singled out for praise.
The Italian certainly looked at home in a rather unfamiliar looking Red Devils back four, with the clean sheet proving to be the most pleasing aspect of the performance. They will surely be better going forward at Villa Park, where Depay’s pace will be more of weapon, and Ashley Young will again be keen to prove a point to his former supporters. Both sides are very attack-minded, which should lead to an enterprising game.
Villa midfield duo Carles Gil and Jack Grealish are unlikely to feature despite returning to training. Jordan Ayew is expected to keep his place up front ahead of Gestede.
Phil Jones is absent for United through illness, while Marouane Fellaini is still suspended having been sent off on the final day of last season. Bastian Schwensteiger is pushing for a start after coming off the bench against Tottenham.
Last Meeting: Christian Benteke was blighted by injury for much of the first half of last season, but he showed his quality with a superb turn and shot from 20 yards just before half time back in December. But they were unable to hold on, as Radamel Falcao glanced in a header from a left wing cross to give United a share of the points.
Played for both – Ronny Johnsen: Capped 62 times by Norway, Johnsen was an integral part of Man Utd’s most successful spell under Alex Ferguson, winning the Premier League four times in six years as well as the FA Cup and the Champions League. He moved on to Villa in 2002, and scored one goal in 49 league appearances over two seasons.
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