Manchester United need to maintain the pressure on the two teams directly above them in the table by taking all three points from their trip to relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Thursday (8.15pm).
Man Utd have won each of their last three matches and have taken 10 points in their four fixtures since the Premier League restart in mid-June. Fourth-placed Chelsea have picked up a point less in that time, while third-placed Leicester have accumulated just half of United’s haul.
That all means that just three points now span third to fifth. If Manchester City’s ban from European competition is upheld, United’s current spot would be enough to earn them a place in next season’s Champions League. A guaranteed place among the continent’s elite regardless of the outcome of City’s appeal is now also very much within reach.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side continued their excellent form with a 5-2 thrashing of Bournemouth on Saturday. All three members of their dynamic front three got on the scoresheet, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford grabbing one apiece, while 18-year-old Mason Greenwood scored twice. Bruno Fernandes notched the fifth just before the hour.
The 13 goals scored over the course of that triumph and the preceding pair of 3-0 wins over Sheffield United and Brighton represent nearly 20% of Man Utd’s goal total for the season. Some combination of the relentless positivity of January signing Fernandes, the return from injury of Paul Pogba and the break in action seem to have transformed a solid but pretty unspectacular side into a proactive and exciting attacking force.
We are working with a very small sample size here, and the quality of opposition hasn’t been the greatest, so it would pay not to infer too much from these four matches, but United have genuinely looked a pretty good side since the restart. Still not close to the level of champions Liverpool and their local rivals City, but better than they have looked for a while.
Solskjaer’s side also have a very accessible run-in. They do meet Leicester away on the final day, but all four of their preceding fixtures are against current members of the bottom eight, including two against teams in the bottom five, starting with Villa on Thursday.
Aston Villa are third from bottom, in the final relegation spot, level on points with Bournemouth in 19th, just a point removed from Watford in 17th, but now four shy of West Ham in 16th. The Villans have taken just two points from five matches since the restart, and the form book suggests it may now just be them, Bournemouth and Watford fighting to avoid filling the two remaining relegation spots behind a Norwich side with very little hope of a late escape.
The most trusted UK bookmakers have Villa as the odds-on third favourites to be relegated and that is a prediction shared by the few publicly available forecasting models. Sunday’s 2-0 defeat away to Liverpool extended their winless run to nine matches either side of the league stoppage. No team at the bottom has really prospered since the restart, so Villa are still in with a solid chance of avoiding the drop, but they could really do with a win or two, and sharpish at that.
Dean Smith’s side have leaked goals all season and attempts to tighten things up since the restart appear to have simply neutered their attack. Villa have scored just twice in five matches, while still conceding six. Whichever way he chooses to position his blanket, Smith always seems to be left with some extremity out in the cold.
Our Preview’s Aston Villa vs Man Utd Betting Tips Verdict
Man Utd are pretty clearly the favourites to take all three points on Thursday. It is hard to make a convincing case in Villa’s favour, even though they were able to secure a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford when the sides met there in December.
United have looked reinvigorated since the return to action and can be fancied to both halt Villa’s attack and create enough themselves at the other end to come away with the victory. So our Aston Villa vs Man Utd preview advises this betting tip:
- Bet on Manchester United to win to nil @ 5/4 with BetVictor.
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