The Red Devils lost 3-1 to Aston Villa away in the Premier League on Sunday in what was Unai Emery’s inaugural game as the Villa boss. So, they will be raring to avenge weekend’s league defeat at Villa Park by knocking Emery’s team out and booking a place in the fourth round of the EFL Cup. For Villa, Emery masterminded a well-deserved win over Man United and will be looking to replicate something similar this week.
With the World Cup looming on the horizon, both managers will have one final chance to test their bench strength and give the fringe players an opportunity to impress before the weekend’s Premier League duties.
That being said, here are the key battles that could define the outcome of the cup tie in midweek.
#Fred vs Jacob Ramsey
Fred has become a squad player for Man United under Erik ten Hag, with the Dutch tactician preferring Christian Eriksen, Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes and even Scott McTominay ahead of him in midfield. The Brazilian should return to the starting XI on Thursday evening, having last started a game in the Red Devils’ 2-0 win over Spurs in the Premier League.
Likely to form the double pivot with compatriot Casemiro in United’s midfield, Fred will hope to bring energy, dynamism and tenacity that Ten Hag’s side lacked in the defeat to Villa. He could also be tasked to keep a check on Jacob Ramsey, who provided an assist and scored a goal for the Villans.
Ramsay proved to be a complete pest to deal with for the United defenders, and the young Englishman will be looking to replicate something similar this week at Old Trafford. Who comes out on top in the battle between Fred and Ramsay could determine the outcome of the game.
#Harry Maguire vs Danny Ings
Having shipped three goals at the weekend, Ten Hag could make changes to his backline and restore Harry Maguire into his starting XI.
Maguire has lost his place in the team this term but remains determined to win it back. The England international, who is expected to replace Victor Lindelof in central defence, will need to be at his best to keep Villa’s forwards at bay, especially Danny Ings.
Ings may get a chance to lead the Villa attack at the expense of Ollie Watkins in the cup tie. He will be up for the match and aim to repay Emery’s faith in him, and the Villa striker’s runs in behind the backline may cause trouble for Maguire. So, it will be quite an interesting battle between the two England internationals.
#Diogo Dalot vs Leon Bailey
Diogo Dalot will almost certainly continue at right-back for Man United as he is suspended for Sunday’s Premier League match with Fulham.
The Portuguese has been an ever-present member of the backline this season, showing considerable improvement in both the defensive and attacking aspects of his game under Ten Hag. However, like most of his teammates, he did struggle against Villa at Villa Park on Sunday and should be raring to put in a better display in the upcoming cup game.
In Leon Bailey, Dalot should face a tricky test at Old Trafford. Bailey sizzled against Man United and scored the opening goal at Villa Park, whilst tormenting their defenders with his explosive pace and strength on the ball. If he starts again, the Jamaican will be hoping to reproduce a similar kind of display in midweek.
Despite Dalot doing well this term, Bailey will show no respect for the Portuguese full-back at Old Trafford, and this is certainly an area that Emery will be hoping to exploit.