Manchester United’s midfield indecision is such an issue goodness knows when the same set will start in successive matches.
Fred was in his hospitality box on Wednesday night and Scott McTominay on the bench, so it would be no surprise if both were recalled today.
Nemanja Matic, the most effective of the midfielders at West Ham despite playing barely five minutes, played the full 90 minutes in midweek, and his Thursday will have been one of recovery. Donny van de Beek was decent but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he lacked quality, admittedly due to a lack of minutes.
There were a number of reasonable performances in the defeat to West Ham without anyone providing a compelling enough case to start today.
Lingard was a dubious withdrawal late in the second-half (especially as Anthony Martial stayed on) when he had been bright and was denied a penalty by the reliably unreliable referee Jon Moss.
Lingard has two goals in his last two Premier League games and Aston Villa have switched to a back three recently. It would be a hindrance if United had four forwards in the front six.
The wholesale changes against West Ham – and its result – suggest Solskjaer could play the same team that started at West Ham.
United’s performance in London does not necessarily merit an unchanged XI this weekend but at least nine starters seem secure at the moment and the six-day gap should benefit them.
Villa’s back three has included Axel Tuanzebe, ineligible to play against his parent club today.
Regardless, Villa have been tough to break down for United at Old Trafford in the last two seasons – two of their four goals were an own goal and a penalty – but Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings could start together up front, with Leon Bailey expected to be out through injury.
Emiliano Buendia, another £30million summer signing, is available to Dean Smith. Villa have enough about them in attack to convince a pragmatist like Solskjaer to use two holding midfielders.
Another Ronaldo record?
Romelu Lukaku was on the cusp of making history for United when he stepped up to take a penalty in his fourth appearance for the club against Leicester, alas his penalty was saved by Kasper Schmeichel.
The last United player to score in his first four appearances for the club was James Hanson in 1924. Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, had his first four games back in 2003 but if he scores this afternoon he would become the first post-war United signing to score in their ‘first’ four matches.
And the team Ronaldo has scored most of his United goals against? Aston Villa.