Manchester United have made life difficult for themselves in recent fixtures, having to come from behind to beat both Blackpool and Southampton, which may just evoke memories of their last fixture against Aston Villa.
In November, goals by Ashley Young and Marc Albrighton had given the Midlanders a two-goal lead which they maintained until the 81st minute when Federico Macheda popped up to grab one back before Nemanja Vidic completed the recovery to snatch a point.
Whether the league leaders will be quite so generous again remains to be seen. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have conceded just seven goals at home so far this season, the best record in the top flight, and only West Brom have managed to deprive them of all three points on their own turf.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, are showing signs of improvement having eased away from the drop zone with important wins over Manchester City and Wigan Athletic before making it three on the bounce by knocking Blackburn Rovers out of the FA Cup.
Yet to take anything from Old Trafford they will need to improve their away form which has seen them win just twice so far this season at struggling Wigan and Wolves.
Indeed a win at Old Trafford will make it a hat-trick of away wins for the season and they will fancy their chances having won at United last season when a first-half goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor was enough to secure victory.
Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that he will revert back to his usual defense after changing his entire back five for the FA Cup win over Southampton.
Rafael has recovered from concussion suffered at Blackpool, Patrice Evra will also return having missed the FA Cup clash due to a family bereavement while key trio Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Edwin van der Sar are also expected to feature.
Up front Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney are both expected to start after being left on the bench against Southampton, although Javier Hernandez’s recent goals mean the Mexican is pushing hard for a first-team place.
Possible starting XI: Van der Sar; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs; Berbatov, Rooney.
Record signing Darren Bent will return to the Villa team having been ineligible for their FA Cup win over Blackburn Rovers.
Defenders Richard Dunne and James Collins should also return after missing the cup tie, while Villa’s other new recruit, Jean Makoun, may partner Stiliyan Petrov in midfield.
Possible starting XI: Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Clark; Albrighton, Petrov, Makoun, Downing; Bent, Agbonlahor.
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