The third round of the FA Cup has seen plenty of cup sets already and we might see another favourite come a cropper to end proceedings when Manchester United host Aston Villa tonight.
Ralf Ragnick’s arrival was greeted with much fanfare and hope by United fans whose patience had finally run out with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but overall, it’s hard to say that performances have improved under his management.
United pressed better and saw more individual efforts against Crystal Palace in a 1-0 victory to begin his time in charge, but they drew against Young Boys straight afterwards, laboured to victory against Norwich thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty and were a disorganised mess in a 1-1 draw against Newcastle, and deservedly lost to Wolves a week ago.
United did beat Burnley just before the new year but that performance – against a side currently sitting in 17th, playing their first game since the 12th December – appears to be an exception to the rule recently, with the intense pressing that Ragnick is known for nowhere to be seen, rumours that as many as 17 players want out of the club, and a 4-2-2-2 formation leaving them massively exposed.
Manchester United v Aston Villa
FA Cup Third Round
19:55 BBC One HD/ BBC iPlayer
(Maximum 10 matches)
MAY 2021 PREMIER LEAGUE Aston Villa 1-3 Manchester United
JAN 2021 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa
JUL 2020 PREMIER LEAGUE Aston Villa 0-3 Machester United
DEC 2019 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United 2-2 Aston Villa
APR 2016 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United 1-0 Aston Villa
AUG 2015 PREMIER LEAGUE Aston Villa 0-1 Manchester United
APR 2015 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United 3-1 Aston Villa
DEC 2014 PREMIER LEAGUE Aston Villa 1-1 Manchester United
MAR 2014 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United 4-1 Aston Villa
DEC 2013 PREMIER LEAGUE Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United
All of those makes them vulnerable against an Aston Villa side who have improved sharply for the arrival of Steven Gerrard. Their results may be mixed – Gerrard has four wins and four defeats in eight games – but three of those four losses have come against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, whilst they won the shot count 16-10 and won the corner count 7-3 against Brentford.
Villa pushed all of the top three teams harder than most sides have this season and manager Steven Gerrard has promised to play a strong side tonight which should mean starts for Matty Cash, Tryone Mings, Douglas Luiz, John McGinn, Emi Buendia, Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings.
United will have plenty of quality in their side by default given the depth of their squad, but it’s counted for precious little in their performances so far and it’s hard to imagine Ragnick finding a quick fix for what are clearly deep-seated issues.
On everything we’ve seen since those two managers have started, United are far too short to win this match (4/6 with starsports.bet) and far too short to qualify (4/11); take the 6/5 on Villa avoiding defeat, and the 2/1 on them making it through to the fourth round.
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