Manchester United vs Aston Villa

Premier League surprise package Aston Villa can put the final nail in Erik ten Hag’s coffin as Manchester United manager when the two sides lock horns at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

Manchester United’s humiliating 2023/24 Premier League campaign hit a new low at the weekend as a 2-0 defeat at West Ham condemned Ten Hag’s troubled squad to a third consecutive scoring blank in top-flight action (D1, L2). Bringing other competitions into the equation, the ‘Red Devils’ have failed to score in four consecutive matches for the first time since 1992, highlighting the seriousness of Ten Hag’s situation. Indeed, goals have been at a premium for Man Utd this term, with only rock-bottom Sheffield United netting fewer goals than them (18). With Ten Hag’s side commencing the Boxing Day round eight points below the Premier League top four, a victory is imperative for United, especially considering they’re staring down the barrel of a third straight home league defeat for the first time in the 21st century.

As for Aston Villa, Sheffield United – of all sides – knocked the ‘Lions’ down from the club-record 15-game winning Premier League streak at Villa Park at the weekend. Nicolo Zaniolo’s 97th-minute equalizer reduced a point for Unai Emery’s team in a stomach-wrenching 1-1 draw, leaving them a point adrift of leaders Arsenal. Given Villa’s indifferent nine-game league form on the road in 2023/24 (W4, D2, L3), you’d assume they’d loath departing Birmingham. Yet their three-match unbeaten run in away league action (W2, D1) speaks otherwise. Villa’s form resurgence in the hostile setting pales to insignificance compared to their disastrous 24-game H2H record against Man Utd in all competitions (W2, D5, L17).

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