On Friday night, the New Year kicks off with Manchester United welcoming Aston Villa to Old Trafford in what should be a game of chance.
United took advantage of points lost by the teams around them to move up to second place, thanks to a very late winner against Wolves on Tuesday night. United could go on top with a win over Villa, while the Villans could move up to third if they win the game.
With two of the league’s most successful teams, Friday’s game could be a storm. Here’s all you need to know.
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Manchester United vs Wolves preview: how to watch TV, live stream, kick-off time and team news
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Leicester vs Manchester United preview: How to watch on TV, live stream, kick-off time and team news
When does the kick-off take place? Friday January 1
What time is the kick-off? 8:00 p.m. (GMT)
Where is it played? Old trafford
TV channel / live broadcast? Sky Sports (United Kingdom)
Arbitrator? Michael oliver
United remain without Marcus Rojo, who is expected to return in mid-January after a calf injury. Victor Lindelof is also still in doubt with a shot he picked up against Leicester in the 2-2 draw on Boxing Day.
Villa’s Trezeguet and Wesley Moraes are still out indefinitely with hamstring and knee injuries, respectively. Ross Barkley has slight hamstring strain so he’s unlikely to start, while Tyrone Mings has served his one-game suspension after his red card against Crystal Palace and will therefore be available for Dean Smith’s selection .
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Telles; McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes; Greenwood, Martial, Rashford.
Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Hause, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; Traoré, Grealish, El Ghazi; Watkins.
United are undefeated in the league since their 1-0 loss to Arsenal in early November. Solskjaer praised his side after Wolves’ victory for “being more robust” in their ability to win games late.
Now with a squad that are “more physically and mentally ready to move up the ranks,” United is certainly showing it now, collecting points even in games where they are not at their best.
It’s fair to say that Dean Smith’s side have been the surprise package of the season so far. Having narrowly avoided the drop last season, their campaign to date has been quite staggering.
Fifth in the table, and with a game in hand on those overtaking them (two over Leicester), they have the tightest defense in the league and are unbeaten in five.
The 3-0 back-to-back wins over Palace and West Brom were followed by a very respectable point at Chelsea. A fit United will give another an opportunity to show they can stay at the top of the table for the long haul.
Here’s how they’ve both gotten along in their last five games.
Manchester United 1-0 Wolves (12/29)
Leicester City 2-2 Manchester United (26/12)
Everton 0-2 Manchester United (23/12)
Manchester United 6-2 Leeds United (20/12)
Sheffield United 2-3 Manchester United (17/12)
Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa (12/28)
Aston Villa 3-0 Crystal Palace (12/26)
West Brom 0-3 Aston Villa (20/12)
Aston Villa 0-0 Burnley (17/12)
Wolves 0-1 Aston Villa (12/12)
United have struggled against a strong Wolves defense and only won with eventual winner Marcus Rashford, and if Villa can defend as they have so far this season and not give United forwards the space they dream of behind, this match could be theirs for the taking.
Ollie Watkins, Jack Grealish and Bertrand Traore recently looked in hot red form and could cause bulky Harry Maguire problems in the back.
This one could go either way.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Aston Villa