Sunday’s Premier League action includes a huge clash in the battle for UEFA Champions League qualification. Who will come out on top? We look ahead to the game with our Aston Villa vs Manchester United prediction and preview.
Aston Villa vs Manchester United: The Quick Hits
- The Opta supercomputer makes Aston Villa favourites for Sunday’s clash with Manchester United, with the hosts winning 39% of pre-match simulations to the Red Devils’ 32.1%.
- Man Utd are unbeaten in their last 24 Premier League matches played in February (15 wins, nine draws) since losing 1-0 to Newcastle United in 2018 under José Mourinho.
- Unai Emery has won both of his home Premier League games against United, 2-0 with Arsenal in March 2019 and 3-1 with Villa last season. He could become the first manager to win his first three home Premier League matches against them.
Whisper it quietly, but Manchester United may just be back in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification. With key players returning to fitness and youngsters finding their feet, the Red Devils are unbeaten in five games across all competitions in 2024 (four wins, one draw) and enter Matchday 24 sixth in the Premier League table, eight points adrift of their next opponents – fourth-placed Aston Villa.
Three days on from a pulsating 4-3 victory over Wolves, Erik ten Hag’s men eased past West Ham 3-0 at Old Trafford last Sunday, with Rasmus Højlund opening the scoring before Alejandro Garnacho helped himself to a brace. Having also beaten Newport County 4-2 in the FA Cup in late January, United have now won three successive games across all competitions for the first time since October, doing so while netting three or more goals in each match for the first time since January 2023.
The improved form of Højlund and Garnacho has been crucial to United’s upturn in front of goal. Across their last five Premier League games, the Red Devils have scored 13 goals, converting 20% of their 65 shots. In the five matches that preceded this run, they netted just twice with a conversion rate of 3% (73 shots).
Having failed to net in his first 14 Premier League games, Højlund has now scored in four successive league appearances, a run that started with his winning goal in the reverse fixture against Villa on Boxing Day. He is the youngest player to score in four straight Premier League games for United, and the only Danish player to have achieved that feat in the competition overall.
Garnacho’s tally of five Premier League goals this term, meanwhile, has only been bettered by Scott McTominay (six) among United players (Marcus Rashford also has five). The Argentinian livewire has also recorded 34 chance-creating carries in the competition this season, a tally that puts him second only to Manchester City star Phil Foden (38).
Garnacho’s international teammate Lisandro Martínez has been sidelined again after suffering a medial collateral ligament injury, while fellow defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka had to withdraw from training on Thursday and won’t make Sunday’s game.
Martínez’s absence leaves Ten Hag with a selection dilemma at the heart of his defence. United’s rearguard has not looked particularly solid this season, with only Sheffield United (390), West Ham (376) and Luton Town (371) facing more shots in the Premier League than their 355. Their average of 15.4 shots faced per game is United’s most in a single campaign on record (since 2003-04), though Villa are averaging 14.6 attempts per match, also their most in a Premier League season on record.
Villa certainly had their shooting boots on last Saturday as they dismantled Sheffield United in a 5-0 win at Bramall Lane. With John McGinn, Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, Youri Tielemans and Álex Moreno all on target, Villa had five different goalscorers in a Premier League game (excluding own goals) for the first time since a 5-1 win over Bolton Wanderers in November 2009.
They have now won three Premier League games by a margin of four or more goals this season (also 4-0 vs Everton and 6-1 vs Brighton and Hove Albion), as many as they managed in their previous three campaigns combined.
They were brought back down to earth on Wednesday, however, exiting the FA Cup with a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea in a fourth-round replay at Villa Park, with Moussa Diaby’s late strike a mere consolation after Conor Gallagher, Nicolas Jackson and Enzo Fernández struck for the Blues.
Villa have now lost back-to-back home games across all competitions, having lost just one of their previous 22 at Villa Park in a run dating back to last February (20 wins, one draw).
The omens are good for Emery, however, with United coming to town. The Spaniard has won both of his home Premier League games against them, winning 2-0 with Arsenal in March 2019 and 3-1 in his first game in charge of Villa in November 2022. He could now become the first-ever manager to win his first three home Premier League matches against United.
In Watkins, he can call upon one of the Premier League’s form players. Watkins has 38 goal involvements in 47 Premier League games under Emery (24 goals, 14 assists), averaging one every 107 minutes. Of all Villa players to play at least 1,000 minutes under a specific manager in the competition, only Christian Benteke under Tim Sherwood has a better rate (one every 96 minutes).
Aston Villa vs Manchester United Head-to-Head
United overturned a 2-0 half-time deficit when the teams last met on Boxing Day, with Garnacho grabbing a second-half brace before Højlund hit the winner at a jubilant Old Trafford.
The Red Devils also have a strong record at Villa Park, winning on 17 of their 28 previous trips there in the Premier League.
Only United themselves – with 19 victories over Everton at Goodison Park – have more away wins over a specific opponent in the competition.
Villa did win this exact fixture 3-1 last season, however, ending a 23-game winless run in the Premier League against United at Villa Park. They last won consecutive home league games against United between 1966 and 1977, posting five victories in a row.
Villa Park has been a fortress for much of Emery’s reign, but the Villans’ home form has tailed off somewhat lately. Since winning 15 straight home league games between March and December 2023, Villa have only won one of their last three, drawing with Sheffield United and losing to Newcastle. They were also defeated on home soil in the FA Cup against Chelsea in midweek.
They have conceded six goals across those three league matches, just one fewer than they shipped during their entire 15-game winning run (seven).
United, meanwhile, have won their last three away games across all competitions, having failed to win any of their previous five on the road beforehand (two draws, three losses).
Sunday’s visitors also tend to enjoy this time of year. They are unbeaten in 24 Premier League games in the month of February (15 wins, 9 draws) since losing 1-0 to Newcastle in 2018 under José Mourinho.
Opta Power Rankings
The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.
Ahead of kick-off this weekend, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides.
Aston Villa vs Manchester United Prediction
Sunday’s game appears a difficult one to call with both sides desperate to land a blow in the race for Europe, but the Opta supercomputer makes Villa slight favourites with their home advantage.
Of 10,000 match simulations conducted by the supercomputer ahead of kick-off, Villa won 39%, with United triumphing in 32.1% and 28.9% finishing all square.
The supercomputer is also backing Villa to finish above United in our 2023-24 predictions. Emery’s men clinch a top-four finish in 57.9% of season simulations, with United given just a 3.1% chance of doing so.
Fourth (45.3%) is deemed Villa’s most likely position, while United finish sixth in a league-high 28% of scenarios.