United are looking to get back to winning ways this weekend as they face-off against last season’s Premier League whipping boys, Aston Villa. Villa currently lie 18th in the Championship after a disappointing start to their campaign but are not to be underestimated due to a wealth of talent at their disposal.
Aston Villa – A Factfile
Nickname: Villans, The Villa
Stadium: Villa Park (42,660 capacity)
Manager: Roberto Di Matteo
2015-16: Premier League, 20th
Major Honours: First Division (7 times winners), FA Cup (7 times winners), League Cup (5 times winners), European Cup (1981-82), European Super Cup (1982)
Pierluigi Gollini – GK – Italian stopper Gollini signed for Villa this summer from Serie B side Hellas Verona after making 29 league appearances for the Italian side. Despite being a Manchester United youth player between 2012-2014, Gollini is relatively new to the English game and the rigours of Championship football. Early form suggests testing the keeper may pay dividends.
Tommy Elphick – CB – Former Bournemouth skipper who led the unfancied Cherries to the Premier League, playing every match of their 2014/15 Championship campaign, is an astute addition by Di Matteo, trying to add stability and consistency to a Villa defence ravaged by mercenaries and poor performers in recent years. Elphick is an experienced centre back and will be tough to deal with for United’s attackers if he’s on top of his game.
Aaron Tshibola – CM – Young box-to-box midfielder Tshibola signed from fellow Championship club Reading in the summer transfer window for an undisclosed fee. The youngster is still in the developmental phase of his career and will be looking to impress boss Di Matteo in order to get more game-time under his belt. So far he has played a couple of games for the Villans, but will need to improve further if he is to emulate the job of last season’s player of the year; Idrissa Gueye.
Ciaran Clark – CB – One Villa departure that many will be familiar with is that of Ciaran Clark. The Irish international made the switch to Rafa Benitez’s project for around £5.5m, and hasn’t looked back since.
Scott Sinclair – ST – Englishman Sinclair failed to hit the ground running in a claret and blue shirt and was somewhat of a disappointment at Villa Park. Subsequently the forward who can also operate on the wing, was farmed out to SPL giants Celtic, where he has got off to a flying start in the green and white hoops. This could perhaps be a faux pas on Di Matteo’s part or possibly a lack of effort from the player himself to exert himself in the second tier, nevertheless he has departed the club.
Idrissa Gana Gueye – CM – Defensive midfield enforcer was sold at a snip, in the region of £7-8m, much to the dismay of the Villa faithful. Everton snapped up his services for that measly sum and have been rewarded with a tough-tackling no-nonsense midfielder that some have billed the “2016-17 season’s N’Golo Kante”. Villa have failed to identify a player in their current midfield setup that can perform to the same level as Gueye did last season.
Rudy Gestede – Inconsistent but a handful when on form, Gestede is a frustrating forward who flattered to deceive at Premier League level. However, 32 Goals in 66 Championship games for Blackburn speaks volumes for his ability at this level and will be one that United’s brawny centre-backs will find difficulty dealing with in the air.
Jordan Ayew – The club’s 2015/16 Top Scorer and son of Ghanaian superstar Abedi Pele, Ayew is another player who can turn a game with his own individual ability, yet does not perform to that standard often enough. Ligue 1 experience with Lorient and Marseille will be useful, and the fact remains that he is a goalscorer and will find the back of the net on numerous occasions this year.
Ross McCormack – 116 goals at Championship level with Cardiff, Leeds and Fulham, but has never played in the Premier League. The Scot is a peculiar one, as having never been picked up by a Premier League club, suggests that perhaps his ability is limited to the second division. Nonetheless, to write off the striker’s goalscoring ability as second rate would be criminal as he is notoriously clinical and will finish chances that are presented to him on a plate.
Manager – Roberto Di Matteo – Chelsea legend both as a player and a manager, Di Matteo led a weakened blues side to the Champions League final defeating the might of Bayern Munich on penalties just four years ago in 2012. Since then he has gained Bundesliga experience as manager of Schalke 04, but finds himself undertaking a monumental challenge in restoring Villa to the Premier League amidst a total restructuring of the club. Tried and trusted assistant Steve Clarke adds vital experience to his coaching staff. Di Matteo was also West Brom boss in 2010 when the Baggies finished second in the Championship behind Newcastle.