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Villama Preview: Aston Villa v Manchester United

Hope springs anew as Unai Emery leads his lions against Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United. Will the new man in charge line up in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2?

With the Newcastle United match solidly in the rear-view mirror, we can happily move on to better things with the arrival of Unai Emery and a home match against Manchester United. The Red Devils are in good form as of late, with a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea, and another home win, this time a 1-0 over West Ham United. Players to look out for include, but aren’t limited to attacking midfielder Marcus Rashford, defensive midfielder Casemiro, and right-back Diogo Dalot.

For Aston Villa this week, things are a bit mysterious given the new man in charge. For the most part we should see the usual suspects, but the door is absolutely open for some adjustments. As for formation, the assumption is that we’ll see a 4-4-2 given that’s what he’s played at Villarreal this season. I wouldn’t rule out a 4-2-3-1 either, but we’ll ultimately have to wait and see. In goal, Emi Martinez will start with a center-back partnership of Tyrone Mings and Calum Chambers. After the 4-0 loss to Newcastle, you figure it’s a good time to make some adjustments and that means Ezri Konsa getting swapped out. At right-back is Matty Cash and at left-back is a much more difficult decision. Ashley Young has been an integral part of the team this season after Lucas Digne’s injury, but with Digne back and a new manager at the helm, it’s likely time to see the Frenchman back in action. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Young, and it may even be my preference, but I think Digne gets the start. In the midfield, a partnership of Leander Dendoncker and Douglas Luiz seems the most obvious, though there are options available. Presuming Dendoncker is a lock for the number six spot, who else could slot into the number eight position? John McGinn is the likeliest to push Luiz from his starting spot (would be a really great comeback story on the season) and Morgan Sanson is someone who may benefit from new management, but it’s presumably a Luiz and Dendoncker partnership for Sunday. On the wings, I would guess we see some variety of Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey on the flanks, though don’t be surprised to see Jacob Ramsey on the left. At striker, Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings will partner.

: This is a tricky one to pick for obvious reasons, but barring something truly ridiculous, I’m confident the team is headed in the right direction. I think a 2-2 draw, given all things, would be a good first step for the Unai Emery era.

Unai Emery Aston Villa Press Conference
Unai Emery had an impressive track record against Manchester United during his time as Arsenal boss. Could he continue that theme at Villa Park on Sunday?
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images