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Friday night kicks off the New Year with Manchester United hosting Aston Villa at Old Trafford in what is expected to be a major competition.
United took advantage of the points lost by teams around them to move into second place, courtesy of a late winner against the Wolves on Tuesday night. United could go to the top with a win over Villa, while the Villans could move up to third place if they win the game.
With two of the highest-scoring teams in the league, Friday’s game could be a big fuss. Here is everything you need to know.
When does it start? Friday january 1
What time does it start? 20:00 (GMT)
Where do you play? Old trafford
TV channel / Live broadcast? Sky Sports (UK)
Referee? Michael Oliver
United are still without Marcus Rojo, who will return in mid-January after a calf injury. Victor Lindelof also remains a doubt with a hit he picked up against Leicester in a 2-2 draw on Boxing Day.
Villa’s Trezeguet and Wesley Moraes are still out for an unspecified period with injuries to the hamstring and knee, respectively. Ross Barkley has a slight hamstring strain, making it unlikely to start, while Tyrone Mings has served his one-game suspension after his red card against Crystal Palace, making him available for selection. by Dean Smith.
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Telles; McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes; Greenwood, Martial, Rashford.
Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Hause, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; Traore, Grealish, El Ghazi; Watkins.
United are unbeaten in the league since their 1-0 loss to Arsenal in early November. Solskjaer praised his team after the Wolves win for “being more robust” in their ability to win games at the end.
Now, with a team that is “more physically and mentally ready to move up the table,” United are certainly showing it today, scoring points even in games where they are not at their best.
It’s fair to say that Dean Smith’s team has been the surprise package of the season so far. Having narrowly avoided the crash last season, his campaign to date has been quite astonishing.
Fifth on the table, and with one game in hand above them (two at Leicester), he has the tightest defense in the league and is unbeaten in five.
Back-to-back 3-0 wins over Palace and West Brom were followed by a very respectable point at Chelsea. A fit United will offer another the opportunity to show that they can stay in the upper echelons of the table for the long term.
Here’s how they both fared in their last five games.
Manchester United 1-0 Lobos (29/12)
Leicester City 2-2 Manchester United (12/26)
Everton 0-2 Manchester United (23/12)
Manchester United 6-2 Leeds United (12/20)
Sheffield United 2-3 Manchester United (12/17)
Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa (12/28)
Aston Villa 3-0 Crystal Palace (12/26)
West Brom 0-3 Aston Villa (12/20)
Aston Villa 0-0 Burnley (12/17)
Wolves 0-1 Aston Villa (12/12)
United fought a solid Wolves defense and only prevailed with an eventual winner from Marcus Rashford, and if Villa can defend as he has done so far this season and not give United’s forwards the space they crave at the rear, this game could be yours for the taking.
Ollie Watkins, Jack Grealish, and Bertrand Traore have all looked red hot recently and could give the cumbersome Harry Maguire some rear-end trouble.
This could go either way.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Aston Villa