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Match Preview: Aston Villa vs. Manchester United

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Manchester United take on Aston Villa in Birmingham on Friday. Here's what they need to watch out for.

Jan Kruger/Getty Images

After starting the season with a fairly unimpressive victory over Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United will be hoping for a rather more sprightly performance away at Aston Villa on Friday. United haven't lost at Villa Park in almost exactly 20 years, with the last one coming when David Beckham netted a consolation in a 3-1 defeat in August 1995.

However, the Villans head into this game buoyed by an opening day victory over newly-promoted Bournemouth. Their summer strike signing Rudy Gestede proved sufficient to fill the Christian Benteke-shaped hole up top, scoring the game's only goal inside the final 20 minutes. Villa have radically reshaped their starting lineup over the summer, and the side that United will come up against is very different to the one that United drew 1-1 with last December.

Team news

For United, both Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo are expected to be missing, while Marouane Fellaini is still suspended. David De Gea seems unlikely to be involved with a move to Real Madrid still seeming imminent. The upshot is that we're not likely to see any changes to the team that defeated Spurs last weekend.

Aston Villa centre-back Jores Okore is out, while Jack Grealish and Carles Gil are both doubful after only recently returning to first-team training. Gary Gardner and José Ángel Crespo both face late fitness tests.

Tactics

Villa boss Tim Sherwood comes across as a fairly uncomplicated man, and his football tactics have usually been in-keeping with his character. However, Villa fans will have been excited to see that he ditched the 4-4-2 for a midfield trio in their win over Bournemouth, with his summer signings leading to the implementation of a more expansive 4-3-3 instead.

That's good news for the Villans, who should be able to make it harder for United to dominate in the centre of the pitch. The man at the centre of the midfield trio is Ashley Westwood, who's good on the ball but not quite so strong defensively. For that, look to Idrissa Gueye, who'll be the man tasked with doing Villa's dirty work in midfield. To the right is Jordan Veretout, who, like Gueye, arrived from France earlier in the summer. He's the most creative of the three, and the man Morgan Schneiderlin will have to keep a close eye on.

It's a nicely balanced midfield, but Sherwood's decision to play the most defensive player on the left rather than in a central, holding role is a strange one. Depay could well enjoy going up against Westwood. Another potential Villa weakness is at right-back, where Ashley Young will be hoping to get the better of winger-cum-full-back Leandro Bacuna.

In attack, Villa have a couple of options. Against Bournemouth the pacey Gabriel Agbonlahor played either side of wingers Jordan Ayew and Scott Sinclair, though it's possible that the towering goalscorer Gestede will be brought into their starting lineup for this match. That probably wouldn't be a bad idea, particularly with the comparatively weak Daley Blind likely to start at centre-back for United.