Manchester United v Aston Villa: Solskjaer to silence critics - for now

Paul Higham thinks Aston Villa can score at Old Trafford, but it won't be enough to stop Man Utd taking all three points on Saturday lunchtime...

Solskjaer scrutiny continues

Their Carabao Cup exit against West Ham had the knives out again for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in what is a becoming a rather tedious routine of rounding on the Man Utd manager after every bad result. Yes, the Carabao Cup was a good chance of silverware but with the squad he has he should be aiming higher.

And the #OleOut brigade will have to tweet about something else if a win here over Villa sends Man Utd to the top of the table, which will happen if Chelsea fail to beat Man City in the other early kick-off.

United have not exactly been flowing even with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring four goals in three games, but have yet again under Solskjaer been finding ways to pick up wins - with an 8oth minute winner at Wolves and 89th minute winner at West Ham grabbing them six points they probably didn't deserve.

They've won 5-1 and 4-1 in their two league games at Old Trafford and now face a Villa side they've not lost to in the last 17 league meetings - winning 14 of those - with 18 wins of their last 21 league meetings at home.

Solskjaer will be feeling confident of silencing the doubters on Saturday - even if for just one more game.

Smith's Villa need away day spark

There was a lot to like about Aston Villa's 3-0 win over Everton coming after their own 3-0 defeat against Chelsea, and that kind of sums Dean Smith's inconsistent side up so far this season.

They've conceded three twice in two away defeats but are unbeaten at home with two wins and a draw with two clean sheets - their recent record on the road of two wins in eight with five defeats leaves a lot to be desired.

As does their record of one win in their last 45 Premier League games against Manchester United (D11 L33) - no team in the competition has won more games against a single opponent than United have against Villa.

They looked lively, direct and full of pace against Everton and they'll need to be every bit as clinical with the few chances they get on Saturday. They have scored in four of their last five games at Old Trafford, it's just keeping them out at the other end that's been the big problem.

Can Villa keep out top scorers at home?

You can get a whopping 8.8 on the exchanges for a Villa victory at Old Trafford, with plenty of confidence in a home win at 1.58. The draw is a big price at 5.3.

Villa are well capable, it's just what approach they decide to take as the common consensus is that frustrating United and keeping a deep, compact defence limits their space and often thwarts their chances. Their suspect midfield is then exposed with a lack of creativity while the defence is open to the counter.

Stopping United scoring at home is tough though, as they've bagged in their last 15 league games at Old Trafford but they've also let one in in their last seven contests so perhaps Villa's best for of defence is attack.

There may be a limit to how often United can keep scoring late goals, keep getting moments of magic to cover up for shoddy performances and keep outperforming their xG so drastically - scoring 13 goals this season from an expected goals total of just eight.

Villa can be direct and have attacking options so both teams to score, even though it's a short price at 1.86, is worth taking.

At a bigger price, Man Utd to win and both teams to score weighs in at 2.96 and seems the most likely match result outcome.

Can Ronaldo's red-hot return continue?

Ronaldo's an odds-on shot to score given his exploits since returning. He's now an arch poacher that does all his work inside the box, he may score a lot of tap-ins but he's score a lot full stop, and that's exactly what United need from him.

Bruno Fernandes has scored in all three of his games against Villa but all three have been penalties - it remains to be seen if he can still handle spot-kick duties with Ronaldo now in town.

United will give Villa chances, with the opposition getting into double figures for shots on goal in four of five Man Utd games so far, resulting in a minimum of three shots on target in each game.

West Ham managed four and Wolves had six on target from 15 attempts when drawing a blank! Any improvement on finishing will get Villa a goal but they should have plenty of attempts.

Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins are their best bets for shots on target and ultimately goals - they're 3.2 and 4.2 respectively to get a goal at Old Trafford.

It's Watkins that we fancy here to have an impact, and although he may not score he's had two shots on target twice in his three league games this season, and he can match that here at 4.2.

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