Saturday afternoon sees Manchester United welcome Aston Villa to Old Trafford for the 12:45 lunchtime kick-off.
As we are all aware, Old Trafford has been haunting for United this season, resulting in six league defeats, two cup exits (so far) and two embarrassing defeats to their most local and hated rivals.
David Moyes has had to endure a lot of pressure of late, culminating at the capitulation his players suffered during the Manchester derby on Tuesday evening.
The following days have seen an increase in fans' attitudes towards the running of the club, both the board and the manager himself. We are now in the midst of a "will-they-won't-they" story of the idea of a fly-by slogan from a plane travelling over Old Trafford with the phrase "Wrong One - Moyes Out", as mentioned by a United fanzine website therepublikofmancunia.com.
Attempting to stay away from the histrionics of the fans' approval or disapproval of the current regime, important matters return to the pitch.
Old Trafford has not been the fortress it once was, with Wayne Rooney declaring this week that the "fear factor had gone", something that was inconceivable under the previous reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. Will United be able to stand firm and produce an Olympiakos type performance?
The reverse fixture at Villa Park in December resulted in a comprehensive win for United, running out 3-1 victors. Goals coming from the much improved Danny Welbeck (2), and a rare goal from a United midfielder, and the player himself, Tom Cleverley.
United lined up in a 4-4-2 that afternoon, with Welbeck supported by Rooney up top, with Antonio Valencia and Adnan Januzaj supplying the width. A quick-fire start (so often lacking this season) saw Welbeck put United two-up in quick succession. Cleverley added a clever (excuse the pun) finish shortly after play resumed in the second half.
United go in to this game in poor form, but also low in confidence. Two good results against Olympiakos and West Ham were sandwiched with two very poor performances against bitter rivals Liverpool and then Manchester City.
On the other hand, Aston Villa have just recorded a significant and brilliant victory over League leaders Chelsea. This however, was followed up by a very poor performance at home to Stoke City, culminating in a dreadful 4-1 home defeat. Confidence may also be a factor in Villa's performance on Saturday afternoon.
As the home team, the outcome will depend on how United set up. Will Moyes be brave enough to go for the attack in this game, or will the extreme pressure he is facing see him revert back to his structured and safe (perceivable) emphasis?
If to judge on recent performances, and looking at the opposition, it would appear a team consisting of the majority of the team that faced West Ham would be his best bet. This is a time for controlling possession, to keep the team calm and confident, along with the fans.
West Ham away saw Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa combining to good effect, linking up together in pockets of space with Rooney, allowing Young to patrol the right hand side throughout the match. It was by far and away the most confident performance we have seen from United this season, and playing this system once more will also lift the spirits of Kagawa (marginalised by Moyes all season) and Mata (an increase in pressure on him to perform and be worthy of the massive price-tag on his head).
Going through the team, David de Gea needs no mentioning, as he is the only player in the team consistently playing to his ability.
Nemanja Vidic is available again after his two game domestic ban has come to an end, but will he start due to his impending departure? Moyes has previously said that he will not feature as often as previous, but with injuries to Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling, we may see him return at the expense of Rio Ferdinand. Vidic may be called upon to deal with the height and strength of Christian Benteke.
Alexander Buttner is likely to return to the line-up, giving him extra minutes prior to his seemingly place in the Bayern Munich match, where Patrice Evra is suspended. Rafael will keep his spot at right back.
The midfield is tricky, and depends on how Moyes sets out (4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1). I would presume Michael Carrick will start once more, with one of Cleverley, Maruoane Fellaini or Darren Fletcher sitting alongside him. Fletcher impressed last Saturday versus West Ham so hopefully he is given another chance to show to Moyes he should not be listening to offers for him come summer.
Many have been calling for Welbeck to be given an increasing run in the starting line-up, and he could work to the same effect as Ashley Young to hold position on a wing. Valencia could also offer this option.
Playing Kagawa, Mata and Rooney together should be the first thing that Moyes works on for this fixture, especially with Kagawa hopefully playing a big part against Bayern in the two legs. The footballing ability between these three amongst the pace of one of Welbeck/Valencia/Young should cause problems for Villa's inexperienced (Nathan Baker, Leandro Bacuna) and slow (Ron Vlaar) back-line.
This is a fixture United would expect, and NEED to win to keep the pressure off both the manager and the players, and this should become a formality against a much inferior Aston Villa team.
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