Coming off three wins and on an unbeaten run since early October, Manchester United travel to Villa Park to face Aston Villa in the first of two back-to-back matches against the Villains with the two meeting again in the Carabao cup midweek.
As is stands, United remain just one point outside of the Champions League spots in the Premier League and, with just two league games left before the World Cup starts, Erik Ten Hag will be keen for his side to break into the top four before the six-week break.
Villa on the other hand have had a very different season so far, currently sitting in 17th just outside the relegation zone with 12 points.
However, Sunday marks the start of Unai Emery’s tenure as manager and so, despite not beating United at Villa Park since 1999, it would be foolish to write off a potentially new Aston Villa.
There are certainly numerous players that we should be keeping an eye on for this encounter.
Manchester United – Cristiano Ronaldo
To say Cristiano Ronaldo has had a strange six months for United would be an understatement. However, when you have one of the greatest of all time in your team and someone who, let’s be honest, has a massive ego, what do you expect?
There will always be drama and controversy surrounding Ronaldo’s name, but that cannot take away from the fact that on his day, he is unstoppable.
It is precisely that kind of player that United might need to look to on Sunday afternoon as they go into the unknown facing a new Villa side that Emery seems to think he can take to European football and beyond.
Whilst his form in the league hasn’t exactly been impressive so far - he has only started three league games - with the World Cup looming, now is exactly the time that Cristiano will want to pick up his form so he can make a statement in what is quite possibly his final international tournament.
If he plays like how he did midweek against Real Sociedad, when he played a really impressive pass to set up Garnacho’s decisive goal, then it would be difficult to see anyone stopping him helping United to a crucial win for The Reds in their chase for the top four.
Aston Villa – Ollie Watkins
Honestly, Aston Villa's form this season makes it difficult to suggest an in-form player to watch out for. No one has really stood out this season at Villa Park.
With Emery coming in, it’s hard to tell who will shine in his style of play. That being said, one player who will be keen to stand out is Ollie Watkins
Since starting the season well with a goal and assist in Villa’s first three matches, Watkins has had quite a quiet season, up until two weeks ago when he put the last nail in the coffin in the Brentford game, scoring the final goal in a 4-0 victory.
Watkins will be keen to put in a similar performance against United, not just to impress his new club manager, but also to impress England manager Gareth Southgate to try and secure a place behind Harry Kane in the highly contested second and third striker spots ahead of the World Cup.
In his sixth appearance against Manchester United, could Watkins finally claim his first goal and lead Villa to their first win under Emery and put himself under Southgate’s spotlight? We'll have to wait and see.
Aston Villa vs Manchester United kicks off at 14:00 GMT but unfortunately, it hasn’t been selected for broadcast in the UK.
Instead, video highlights will be published two hours after full-time with longer versions, including the full 90 minutes, to follow on Monday morning, all on MUTV, ManUtd.com and the United App
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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