Ralf Rangnick has his hands full with this Manchester United squad, and it won't get any easier as in-form Aston Villa visits Old Trafford to begin its journey in this season's FA Cup.
While other Premier League sides benefitted from a favorable draw to advance against lower-tier opposition, Manchester United was handed a matchup against a fellow Premier League side for the FA Cup third round. That will only make things tougher for Rangnick, whose squad deficits were on full display in a 1-0 loss to Wolves last time out.
The Red Devils were soundly beaten by a structured Wolves squad, with Rangnick's preferred formation not producing the desired results. There will be calls for the German to be more flexible with his tactics and work to get the best out of his available squad.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, has lost four of its last six in Premier League play, but the performances arguably did not deserve that harsh return. Those recent results include tight one-goal losses to title challengers Man City and Liverpool, plus a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge that saw Villa leading Chelsea before Romelu Lukaku's halftime introduction turned the match on its head.
Steven Gerrard has been praised for his initial spell of games at Villa Park, and the side looks to be a true test for Rangnick's beleaguered Red Devils. These two sides will meet again just days later with a Premier League matchup set for January 15.
How to watch Man United vs. Aston Villa
- Date: Monday, Jan. 10
- Time: 2:55 p.m. ET
- Streaming: ESPN+ (subscribers only)
The Monday FA Cup match between Manchester United and Aston Villa from Old Trafford will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN's streaming service ESPN+ in the USA.
Man United vs. Aston Villa projected lineups
Paul Pogba is still out for Manchester United, rehabbing his groin injury in Dubai and still needing another month before returning to training. Victor Lindelof returns from his COVID-19 spell, but Harry Maguire is still out with an injury, meaning Phil Jones could retain his place in the starting lineup, although Raphael Varane is a candidate as well depending on whether Rangnick opts for a first-choice lineup in the cup.
Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw are both suspended for the Premier League reprise of this fixture on Jan. 15 due to yellow card suspension, so both are likely to be used here to help the squad breathe. It will be interesting to see if Bruno Fernandes is deployed by Rangnick, who left the Portuguese playmaker on the bench for the Wolves match, and his introduction around the hour mark of that match had an effect and betrayed the boss's initial decision.
It would also be expected that Dean Henderson will start in goal for Manchester United, having been the man in net for United in the EFL Cup loss to West Ham United.
Man United projected starting lineup (4-2-2-2): Henderson (GK) — Dalot, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw — Fred, McTominay — Sancho, Fernandes – Ronaldo, Rashford.
It's expected that Steven Gerrard will name a full strength side, with both Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings ready to return after missing the disappointing loss to Brentford last time out. Ashley Young is likely to miss out with an ankle injury, barring a late fitness test, while Leon Bailey and Marvelous Nakamba have already been ruled out.
Aston Villa is missing attackers Bertrand Traore and Trezeguet due to their involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations, absences which will be felt. Mings and John McGinn are suspended for the Premier League match due to yellow card accumulation, but both will likely be deployed here.
New man Philippe Coutinho is unlikely to feature after making a January move, with the Brazilian only just arriving in England on Sunday.
Aston Villa projected starting lineup (4-3-3): Martinez (GK) — Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett — Ramsey, Luiz, McGinn — Buendia, Watkins, Ings.
Man United vs. Aston Villa betting pick & prediction
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
Aston Villa is a well-coached side, and with Manchester United's boss already out-coached by a number of Premier League managers during his short stint in charge, I expect Steven Gerrard to give him another good test.
The game will ultimately be decided by Rangnick's tactical flexibility, of which the German has shown none to this point. Should he change up the 4-2-2-2 formation and allow Bruno Fernandes to operate behind the striker, it would give Manchester United a significant boost. Yet to this point we've seen a stubbornness to Rangnick, who has asked United to play his way rather than bend to the skill set of the squad. Unless that changes, United will continue to struggle.
Emiliano Buendia has been an under-the-radar presence in the Premier League this season, and hasn't gathered the statistical return for his heavy involvement in good attacking play of late, so this could be the perfect breakout opportunity to lead the visitors to victory.
Pick: Aston Villa to win (+400)
Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Aston Villa
- Moneyline: Man United -140 / Draw +295 / Aston Villa +400
- Spread (Asian Handicap): Man United -0.5 (+100) / Aston Villa +0.5 (-110)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over -120 / Under +100
- Both teams to score: Yes -130 / No +100