Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership: MATCH OF THE DAY: Aston Villa v Manchester Utd

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE MEETING of the top two teams in the country hardly needs any extra ingredients to spice it up but the return of Dwight Yorke (right) to Villa Park following his transfer to United is sure to add to the atmosphere of the occasion while for Alex Ferguson, following the midweek departure of his trusty lieutenant, it represents the start of life without Brian.

The United manager expects Yorke to come under fire from fans who felt snubbed by the Tobagan's decision to turn his back on them, but Ferguson is confident the jeers will have no effect on Yorke. "He spent nine years there and it's always a bit strange going back to your former club because you don't know what sort of reaction you're going to get," Ferguson said. "In the cynical world that we live in we can expect him to get a bit of abuse. But that's got to be expected and Dwight's got such a lovely temperament that it won't bother him."

Yorke, who has scored 12 goals in 18 United appearances since his pounds 12.6m transfer in August, said: "I'm not looking for any favours from the fans. I've got mixed emotions about going back as Villa is something which was very much a part of me and it will be strange coming out of the visitors' dressing room.

"I've spoken to Ugo [Ehiogu] on the phone and he says they are all looking forward to it. They have spent well since I left, they are a big club and if this is their year, then good luck to them."

Yorke will not be the game's only striker who is enjoying a hot streak. Villa's Dion Dublin (left) was yesterday named Carling Player of the Month after scoring seven goals in his four games since his pounds 5.75m move from Coventry and even Ferguson admitted he is happy about the former United player's progress.

"I'm really pleased for him because he's one of the best professionals I've had," he said. "He was a great player, a terrific lad, and we're all pleased for him."

United will replace Villa at the top of the table for the first time if they win. David Beckham, Jesper Blomqvist and Denis Irwin all return to the United squad after being rested for the win over Leeds last Sunday. Ryan Giggs is also fit again after making his comeback in Wednesday's cup tie at Tottenham and is likely to start his first Premiership game since 24 October. Jordi Cruyff has recovered from his hamstring injury to leave Ferguson with a full squad to choose from.

For Villa, Alan Thompson is set to replace Paul Merson, who is struggling to shake off a back injury that has troubled him for the last month. Villa are definitely without their suspended striker Stan Collymore. In his continued absence, Julian Joachim will once again line-up in attack alongside Dublin.

ASTON VILLA (from): Oakes, Watson, Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry, Wright, Taylor, Hendrie, Thompson, Dublin, Joachim, Grayson, Scimeca, Draper, Vassell, Charles, Rachel.

MANCHESTER UNITED (from): Schmeichel, Brown, Stam, G Neville, P Neville, Beckham, Keane, Butt, Giggs, Cole, Yorke, Scholes, Blomqvist, Sheringham, Berg, Solskjaer, Irwin, Johnsen, Greening, Van der Gouw.

Suspensions: Villa: Collymore.

Referee: M Riley.