• The Villa Vision

Manchester United vs Aston Villa preview

Aston Villa manager, Dean Smith believes that his team can continue their impressive form ahead of their match against Manchester United.

Villa go to Old Trafford looking to extend their unbeaten run to six matches following a battling performance that earned them a 1-1 draw at Chelsea.

United, meanwhile, are unbeaten in nine premier league games after a late Marcus Rashford goal was enough to beat Wolves and move them up to second.

“We can go and compete with the best in the league, so we're excited about those opportunities, and we'll be ready for them.

“'This season we know where we're at, and we've made a big improvement by going to Arsenal and Leicester and winning, Liverpool, and getting a point at Chelsea.”

Villa hope to welcome back England internationals, Ross Barkley and Tyrone Mings to the squad. Barkley has been out for over a month with a hamstring injury whilst Mings missed the Chelsea match due to a suspension.

United will be without striker Edinson Cavani who will be serving the first of a three-match suspension after being found guilty of breaking the FA’s rule E3 due to an Instagram post which has now been deleted. Additionally, Victor Lindelof is an injury doubt after missing the Wolves match with a back problem.

The fitness of the players is always a concern for any manager throughout the busy Christmas period and traditionally, teams with smaller squads have struggled with having to play multiple games in quick succession. Smith, however, has full confidence that his team are ready for the challenge ahead.

“I can trust them fully, because I look at the squad at the moment, one player comes out of the team and another comes in and does well.

“There's no player who's going to want to go out there and be under their level, because that would let the team down, and there's a great team unity at the moment.

“They know if they do that they are not going to get back in the team, so I've got full trust in them.

'We'll prepare for the game like we have all the rest of them. We get a day's more preparation time ahead of this game, in theory.”

The two sides arranged a friendly match in pre-season, with Villa emerging victorious as 1-0 winners and United manager, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has heaped praise on Dean Smith and his players with the Norwegian expecting a difficult match.

"They have been brilliant; I have to say Dean Smith has done a fantastic job. We played them pre-season and they beat us then in the one game we had before the league started.

"We know all about how tough this is going to be. They have got individual players that are physically strong, and defensively they have been one of the better teams in the league.

“When you beat Liverpool 7-2, it's not just defending. It is counterattack and quality players. That is maybe the game everyone will remember from this season."

Manchester United have bossed recent matches between the two sides with Villa having won only three of their last 50 matches against United and are without a win in 15 against the hosts. Friday night’s fixture gives Villa the perfect opportunity to change that unwanted record.

A win would move United level on points with league leaders Liverpool whilst a win for Villa would move them into third and within a point of United in second.

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