Manchester United travel to face Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa on Saturday with Champions League qualification assured. Like much of their European campaign this season, United were far from their best against Sporting Braga but managed a fourth consecutive win in their group after trailing early and weathering a blackout.
It has become a habit of Ferguson’s results-driven side but United, again, have not played particularly well in the opening stages of the season and were afforded a slice of luck to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on their way to the top of the table.
It all bodes well for a side that missed the Champions League last-16 last season and trailed neighbours Manchester City for much of the league campaign.
KICK-OFF: Saturday, 5.30pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Manchester United 4 (Rooney 2, Welbeck, Nani) Aston Villa 0, Premier League, April 2012
Aston Villa 0 Manchester United 1 (Jones), Premier League, December 2011
Manchester United 3 (Rooney 2, Vidic) Aston Villa 1 (Bent), Premier League, February 2011
Aston Villa have only won three of their 40 matches against Manchester United since the Premier League began.
Their only league win over Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the last 17 years came in 2009, a 1-0 win secured by Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Sir Alex’s side have not lost at Villa Park in the league since 1995 – 17 matches ago.
Having lost out on the title to Blackburn Rovers the previous campaign, United travelled to Villa Park on the opening day of the 95/96 season desperate to get off to a winning start. However it was the Villains who were victorious. Future United striker Dwight Yorke added to Ian Taylor and Mark Draper efforts to help Villa to a 3-1 win. A young David Beckham got the Red Devils' consolation.
Aston Villa to win: 6.50
Man United to win: 1.50
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2 at 5.30pm and highlights on BBC1 at 10.50pm