The countdown is on towards another Manchester United fixture. This Thursday night we face Aston Villa away from home.
United are heavy favourites for the game against the Premier League’s 17th placed side. Villa have scored only two goals in the last five matches.
One added wrinkle to the fixture is that United may be playing catch-up. For the first time since the restart, Chelsea and Leicester both play their games before United.
This may add a little pressure just to stay in touch, while if either of them slip up, it will provide an opportunity to gain ground on our competitors. And this season we have not been too good at taking those chances.
Changes or not?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named the same side for the third successive Premier League game at the weekend. He became the first United boss since Sir Alex Ferguson to do so.
Whether he does the same for a fourth match may not be directly in his control.
Victor Lindelof was taken off at half-time with a back problem against Bournemouth. While precautionary, he did not feature in any of United’s training photos on Monday.
The Swede may be fit in time for the game, but Solskjaer has little reason to risk the defender’s health by rushing him back.
Solskjaer told the club website he will play ‘soon’, but possibly not against Villa.
Eric Bailly got 45 minutes against Bournemouth and will be eager for his first Premier League start since lockdown.
Elsewhere there are probably three big decisions for Solskjaer to consider as he weighs up whether to rotate.
One is at left-back. Will Luke Shaw start for the 17th game in a row, or will Brandon Williams finally be selected?
Will Solskjaer look to quieten the Mason Greenwood hype by benching him? If he does, there is not a standout candidate to replace him. We would suspect that like Shaw, he keeps his place.
In midfield United may look for the fresh legs of Scott McTominay or Fred alongside Nemanja Matic. But United did take the Serbian midfielder off after an hour against Bournemouth, indicating Solskjaer was planning to conserve his energy for this Thursday.
After this game United host Southampton the following Monday. This looks a tougher game than first thought after their impressive win over City. They will be full of confidence.
Even so we would expect more rotation in that fixture than this one, as Solskjaer looks to keep United’s momentum going.
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