Emery, 51, who has won 11 major trophies including four Europa League titles, returns to the Premier League with Aston Villa above the relegation zone by a single point. The Villans have won just three games so far this term and head into Sunday’s contest on the back of a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Newcastle United.
As for Manchester United, it gives them another opportunity to maintain a push for a top-four place. The Red Devils are unbeaten in all competitions since the 6-3 defeat to Man City on October 2, and will travel to Villa Park off the back of a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad in the Europa League.
That said, here are the key battles that could define the outcome of the game.
#Marcus Rashford vs Matty Cash
Marcus Rashford was left on the bench against Real Sociedad in midweek, but the England international is expected to come back into the starting XI on Sunday.
Brimming with confidence at the moment, Rashford is back to his old self and has become one of the main members of Man United’s attack under Ten Hag. He scored a bullet header last weekend to seal a 1-0 win over West Ham and will be raring to get himself on the scoresheet again.
One man trying to prevent Rashford from making inroads against Villa will be Matty Cash. The right-back is known for his attacking endeavours and crossing ability, however, Cash will know this might not be the case on Sunday, as playing against the pacey and athletic Rashford will leave him pinned back often.
So the Rashford vs Cash contest will be one to keep an eye on.
#Ollie Watkins vs Lisandro Martinez
At the other end of the pitch, it will be Ollie Watkins vs Lisandro Martinez.
Watkins has not been prolific this term but he is expected to lead the attack in Emery’s first game in charge of Aston Villa. Blessed with good pace and physical abilities, the England international can be a real handful for the Man United defenders.
Martinez has quickly proven his detractors wrong at Man United with a succession of strong displays at the back. With Varane out injured, the Argentinean is now the leader of the pack and helping the Red Devils keep shutouts after shutouts across all competitions.
Despite Martinez demonstrating that his diminutive frame makes him no slouch in competing with physically dominant strikers and winning aerial duels, it would not be at all surprising if Watkins spent more time on the left side of United’s backline on Sunday.
#Christian Eriksen vs Douglas Luiz
One definite issue Ten Hag faces at the weekend is who replaces Bruno Fernandes in the team, with the Portuguese playmaker suspended after picking up five yellow cards in the division last weekend against West Ham.
Christian Eriksen has played in a deeper role for Man United and excelled but looks likely to be pushed into an advanced midfield role against Villa, with Fred joining Casemiro in the double pivot. The onus will be on the Dane to pick pockets of space in behind Villa and feed the likes of Rashford and Ronaldo.
To prevent Eriksen from having much influence on the game, Emery could start Douglas Luiz alongside John McGinn in midfield and task the Brazilian with sticking tight to the Man United playmaker.
A deep-lying playmaker, Luiz has a good passing range and understanding of the game, and if he can nullify Eriksen’s threat, Villa’s chances of winning the game against United will greatly increase.