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Manchester United will be too clever for Aston Villa under Friday night lights

13 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Manchester United will be too clever for Aston Villa under Friday night lights

Louis van Gaal's side only won six times away from home last season - that must improve if they are to challenge for the Premier League

The reason why the clash between Aston Villa and Manchester United – which was originally scheduled for Saturday night before being brought forward 24 hours – will make for an interesting pub-quiz question one day.

But while concerns from West Midlands Police that their resources might be stretched due to a planned English Defence League march in nearby Walsall is the cause of this one-off switch, the match will offer a glimpse into the future.

From next season, Premier League games will be televised on Friday nights.

Providing both sets of supporters are able to beat the suffocating rush-hour traffic in time for the 7.45pm kick-off, the combination of a sold-out stadium under the floodlights and here-comes-the-weekend merriment will add excitement to what is always an attractive-looking domestic fixture.

For United manager Louis van Gaal, the game is an early chance to arrest the two issues that blighted his debut campaign in English football: failing to win enough games away from home and dropping points against the lesser teams.

His side had to wait until November to record their first victory away from Old Trafford last season – they would go on to claim only five more – and were held 1-1 at Villa Park in December, despite the home side missing seven first-team regulars and finishing the game with ten men.

That is not good enough for a title-challenging team, which should be the minimum expectation for a club like United considering their trophy-winning history and, more pertinently, vast outlay in the transfer market.

A source of encouragement for Van Gaal, then, is his side’s formidable record at Villa Park, where they haven’t lost a league game since 1995.

United were hardly flowing in their 1-0 opening-day win against Tottenham, but few teams were after a truncated summer break.

The expansive sides of Sir Alex Ferguson were able to exploit the spacious Villa pitch and, despite being more controlled under their Dutch manager, the Red Devils will attempt to do the same through the overlapping runs of full-backs Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw.

Wayne Rooney should have scored against Spurs and, having been confirmed as the club’s first-choice striker for this season, will be anxious to get off the mark.

It is likely to happen against Villa. The 29-year-old has notched 13 Premier League goals against them – the most of any club he has faced – and is 13/2 to score first in a United win.

Like their opponents, Villa started the season with a 1-0 victory – away at newly-promoted Bournemouth.

But while there is cause for optimism, boss Tim Sherwood will be aware that his side started with three points in 2013 and 2014 yet still endured relegation-threatened seasons.

Sherwood, in his first full season as a manager, will have done an outstanding job if he is to avoid this scenario for the third successive year, especially considering the losses of Fabian Delph, Christian Benteke and Tom Cleverley in the summer.

Rudy Gestede, the powerful striker signed from Blackburn Rovers to help cover the loss of last season’s top-scorer Benteke, came off the bench to head in a debut winner at Dean Court last weekend and could make his first start.

The 6ft 4in front man is 9/2 to be Villa’s first goal-scorer and 3/1 to score anytime against United, who will again line up with erratic-looking Sergio Romero in goal.

In his short spells at Spurs and Villa, Sherwood has shown himself to be an unashamedly crash-bang-wallop boss whose teams can overwhelm their opponents when in the ascendancy.

That will help stir the home crowd on Friday night.

United’s superior players and tactical nous, however, should be enough to claim a coveted away win (13/8) and extend their 20-year unbeaten record at Villa Park into a third decade.

Aston Villa v Manchester United betting