Can Villa defeat United, Hou knows?
United head to their home away from home, Villa Park, looking to extend their fifteen year unbeaten run against the Villains in Birmingham. United's last defeat at Villa Park came on the opening day of the 1995/96 season.
Brian Little was in the home dugout that day opposite Alex Ferguson but four managers and over a decade later it is Gerard Houllier pitting his wits against Fergie. The Frenchman and the Scotsman renew acquaintances for the first time since Houllier's time as Liverpool boss ended in 2004. During his time on Merseyside Houllier achieved the rare feat of five successive victories over United between 2000 and 2002.
His Villa charges are priced at 19/5 to inflict United's first defeat of the season while the Red Devils can be backed at 5/6 to extend their fantastic unbeaten run against their hosts to a sixteenth season.
The visitors have struggled somewhat on their travels so far this campaign with a 2-1 win away to Stoke their only three point haul acquired away from Old Trafford. In midweek, they played relatively well against rivals Manchester City but rarely threatened Joe Hart in the City goal. They have drawn too many games on the road, with late goals conceded at Everton and Fulham losing them vital points. A draw in this game is priced at 9/4 and a repeat of the stalemate 0-0 scoreline at Eastlands on Wednesday is 17/2.
Despite Villa's poor record against United they can't be written off completely. The midlanders have lost only one of their last 15 Premier League home matches. They have kept four clean sheets in their last six league matches at Villa Park.
Midweek saw Villa secure a last minute victory against Ian Holloway's Blackpool. Holloway chose to change ten of his team from their previous match, leaving many to expect a more comfortable win for Villa than it eventually transpired. That win over the Seasiders was their first in the league since September.
United's midweek point left them four points off Chelsea at the top of the Premier League but won't be too downhearted considering their patchy form to date.
Missing from the team for this game will be Paul Scholes who picked up his fifth booking of the season at Eastlands on Wednesday. The 35 year old midfield maestro has been key for United all season and is still possibly their most influential player, despite his age.
Looking to pick up the mantle for United will be the likes of Nani, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez.
Javier Hernandez has saved United's blushes a couple of times already this season, most notably at Stoke when his two goals secured the three points. Villa will need to contain the Mexican striker if they are to win the game, he is 5/1 to score two or more and 9/2 to break the deadlock
Nani and Berbatov are priced at 15/2 and 5/1 respectively to open the scoring. Berbatov's six league goals this season make him the club's top scorer and in keeping with United's goal scoring exploits tis season, he can be backed at 6/1 to score two or more. United have scored at least twice in 10 of their 12 league games this season. Only two clubs have stopped them scoring - Manchester City and Sunderland.
A mounting injury list has not helped Houllier settle in as manager at the club, with nine players likely to be absent for Saturday's encounter. One player the Frenchman will be happy to see back in action is Gabriel Agbonlahor, who has scored four of Villa's last seven goals against United. Local boy Agbonlahor is 7/1 to score first and if you think he can seal his comeback with a bang, get on him at 50/1 to hit a hat-trick.
Villa's inadequacies up front this season are enforced by the fact that their top scorer is wide midfielder Stewart Downing with four league goals. The former Middlesbrough man is 12/1 to open the scoring in front of the Villa fans.
My prediction for this game would be for an away success. United are winning without playing that well so I think a team are on for a hiding and unfortunately that could be Villa.
I'm going for Nani to score first and United to win 4-1 which is priced at 185/1 on the score cast.