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Manchester United Look to Extend Unbeaten Run Against Aston Villa

Manchester United will travel down to Villa Park to take on tenth place Aston Villa in Saturday’s early kick-off looking to make up for a disappointing performance in the Manchester derby.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side drew 0-0 in mid-week against Manchester City in one of the flattest Manchester derbies in the 21st century. United were clearly the better side and will be boiling with frustration having conceded more ground at the top of the table to Chelsea, who now hold a four point lead. United have drawn five out of six games away from home, which has to improve.

Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last four games as Gerard Houllier’s team grows in confidence. This is reflected through nervous odds on a United win in this game with a best price of 17/20 offering the best value at present. This suggests a tight game for the former Premier League champions. Villa have not been beaten at home by more than one goal since a 4-1 pre-season friendly defeat to Portuguese side Benfica.

Wayne Rooney is not going to make his comeback from a recent ankle problem in this game as he flies back from the United States on Saturday, having trained alone for the past week. Paul Scholes will not play any part in the contest as he is subject to a standard ban for picking up five yellow cards so far this season. Full-back Rafael is unlikely to play any part in the game after suffering a dead leg against Manchester City.

The only other absentees from the United team are long-term sufferers Michael Owen, Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves, who are all carrying hamstring problems. Antonio Valencia remains out after suffering a broken and dislocated ankle at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez are likely to lead the Manchester United attack. The pair have nine goals between them in the league. If Sir Alex Ferguson goes with a 4-5-1 formation then Berbatov will start as the lone striker at odds of 5/1 to score the first goal of the match. United have scored at least two goals in ten matches this season, which suggests Berbatov will have a number of chances.

There will also be huge emphasis on the middle of the United team with Darren Fletcher looking like the player who will be asked to fill the Paul Scholes void. Fletcher has to pull all of the strings in the middle of the pitch if United are going to keep their 24 match unbeaten run in tact and remain the only undefeated side in England this season. The Scot is definitely the man to watch.

This isn’t going to be a walk in the park for United because sides often raise their game when the Red Devils are the away team. United have a few players missing while Aston Villa seem to be on the up. This should be a close game that is separated by one or two goals. A 2-1 United win at 8/1 looks a good bet.

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