BY AARON COOPER
United head south to Villa Park early Sunday morning, a venue they haven’t lost at since 1999, hoping to close the gap on cross-town rivals Manchester City.
United head into the game against 13th place Aston Villa on the back of six straight wins, however manager Louis van Gaal has urged his players to keep increasing their performance levels.
“The results are very good, but we can improve the performances of the team.
“[I’m] still looking for a game that is more close perfect than we have given until now.
“It is no surprise we beat Liverpool. We dominated 90 minutes and I want to see more games like that.”
Angel Di Maria is a possibility to be named on the bench for the clash, but will not be rushed into the line-up.
“Angel [Di Maria] has trained this week with us.
“It’s always dependable on how I have to compare him with other players.
The in-form Marouane Fellaini has been omitted with illness.
The Belgian International’s downfall extends a tumultuous run of players unable to be selected with Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind all unavailable.
Marcos Rojo will undergo a late fitness test after a training injury ruled him out of last week’s Liverpool romp.
Whilst United’s recent performances have been far from perfect, sublime accuracy in attack has stunned the best Premier League defences.
United have scored seven goals from a measly eight shots-on-target against Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool and have walked away with maximum points on all three occasions.
In-form Goalkeeper David de Gea has been United’s saviour on many occasions this season. He will have to be on his game against Villa’s attacking trio of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke and Charles N’Zogbia.
After the trip to Villa, the Reds face four games in 10 days after Sunday morning’s match, beginning with Newcastle on Boxing Day and ending with an away FA cup tie at Yeovil Town on January 4.
With a number of sidelined players expected to return in the coming fortnight, van Gaal is pleased to have a big squad fit and ready heading into the busy Christmas period.
“28 players in the squad and 22 to put in the line-up. That is big news.”
United loanee Tom Cleverley is ineligible, whilst Kieran Richardson and Alan Hutton are serving suspensions for Villa. Skipper Ron Vlaar may have to fight for his starting position after Ciaran Clark and James Okore formed a promising partnership in his absence.
A draw would ensure United remain in third until next matchday, whilst a win could put the Red Devils within two points of Manchester City and five points of leaders Chelsea.
Aston Villa v Manchester United
Saturday 20th December, 15:00 (GMT)
Expected Starting Line-ups
United: De Gea (GK), Evans, Carrick, Jones, Fletcher, Young, Valencia, Mata, Rooney (c), van Persie, Falcao
Villa: Guzan (GK), Lowton, Okore, Clark, Cissokho, Delph, Sanchez, N’Zogbia, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor