Manchester United Vs Aston Villa, Tue 1 Feb 2011

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Sir Alex Ferguson should have significant reinforcements to his defence when Manchester United bid to extend their unbeaten run to 24 games when they tackle Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

Patrice Evra will return after a short trip to France following a family bereavement, Edwin van der Sar will reclaim a starting spot off Anders Lindegaard and Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Rafael are all likely to be given the all-clear after recent injuries.

Dimitar Berbatov also sat out Saturday's FA Cup win at Southampton, although whether Wayne Rooney will partner him in attack in Sunday's Barclays Premier League match is open to debate given Javier Hernandez has scored in his last two games.

Van der Sar begins the slow descent to the end of his career insisting motivation is not going to be a problem.


The Dutchman confirmed on Thursday that he would retire at the end of the season, bringing an end to a stellar 20-year career.

Yet there must be an unspoken concern about how the announcement will affect the veteran's performances.

After all, Ferguson openly admits that when he announced his retirement for 2002, it had an adverse affect on United's performances.

However, Van der Sar does not feel the same will apply to him.

The 40-year-old remains driven and motivated, and his sheer love of being outdoors ensures his training performances will not suffer.

"I don't see motivation until the end of the season being a problem at all," he said.

"There was a point last year when it was four degrees and the rain was pouring down. Ben Foster asked me whether I still wanted to do it in such rubbish weather. I said I loved it.

"That is still the case. I had a calf injury just after Christmas and was not able to go outside for 12 days.

"The only time I went outside was to get from the training building to the car, and then from the car to the house.

"After 12 days I wanted to go outside. That feeling will always be there. I want to train and I want to contribute to a team that deserves to win something."

With a presence already secured in the latter stages of both the Champions League and FA Cup, it promises to be a fabulous epitaph for Van der Sar's career.

Not that he goes in for such neat endings.

And there was certainly not a thought that he might carry on until United would win a trophy he deemed a suitable ending to his career.

"It would be strange thing to say I was going to carry on for another year just to do something. That would be like forcing things," he said.

"There is always a chance you could finish up with nothing.

"Sure, you would be disappointed if that is what happens. But that is not going to change what I achieved in the rest of my career."

Villa will give a late fitness test to Gabriel Agbonlahor.

The striker is suffering from a hamstring injury, and is doubtful for the match.

Defender Nathan Baker is suspended and also has a calf injury, while midfielder Fabian Delph is missing due to a knee complaint.

Villa finally completed the loan signing of United States midfielder Michael Bradley for the remainder of the season on transfer deadline day.

Bradley has made the temporary switch from Borussia Moenchengladbach after impressing Villa boss Gerard Houllier during last summer's World Cup in South Africa.

He became Villa's fourth signing of the transfer window after striker and #18million record signing Darren Bent, midfielder Jean Makoun and on-loan Tottenham defender Kyle Walker.

Bradley will provide competition for the likes of Nigel Reo-Coker, Barry Bannan, Makoun and Stiliyan Petrov in the centre of the park.

Houllier said: "Michael is 23 and is a very hard-working midfielder who can score goals and is versatile.

"I saw him play four times in the World Cup last summer so, in terms of scouting, you cannot say the work has not been done because I saw him just a few months ago.

"We are very happy to have him. Despite his age he is an experienced player.

"He will add to the squad and he will bring energy and legs in midfield when we need it."

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Premier League
Manchester United
Aston Villa

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