Interim Man United manager Ralf Rangnick will be desperate to secure a morale-boosting victory when his team takes on Aston Villa in the FA Cup on Monday.
Can his struggling team turn things around at Old Trafford?
Manchester United FC vs. Aston Villa FC
Monday, January 10, 2022 – 02:55 PM EST at Old Trafford
Man Utd slipped down to seventh in the Premier League table after suffering a dismal 1-0 defeat to Wolves on Monday. In a post-match interview, left-back Luke Shaw admitted that there is a lack of unity among the players right now.
“I didn’t think we were all there together,” said the England international. “You look at the players we have, we have unbelievable quality but sometimes quality is not enough. We need to bring the intensity and more motivation… Maybe the manager can bring some more ideas to what he wants on the pitch.”
Man Utd is now veering towards crisis mode once again, just a month after it fired Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager following a disastrous run of results. Rangnick took the reins until the end of the season, and he initially led the team to narrow wins against Crystal Palace and Norwich.
However, the Red Devils then drew 1-1 with relegation-threatened Newcastle. They beat Burnley 3-1 to lift the mood, but the defeat to Wolves has piled the pressure on Rangnick. He has fired back at the club’s “clearly unhappy” stars and told them to be more professional.
Adapting to a New System
Yet it was always going to be difficult for the players to adapt to a completely new system midway through a Covid-interrupted season.
Rangnick has a very staunch belief in an unusual 4-2-2-2 system, which none of the players have ever been deployed in before. It seemed to work against Crystal Palace, as the Red Devils controlled the game, but they have lacked cohesion since then.
They really need to win to lift some of the pressure, but they face a tricky clash against Aston Villa.
Gerrard’s Men Run Out of Steam
The Midlands club pulled off a significant coup this week by signing former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho on loan until the end of the season.
Coutinho was one of the Premier League’s best players during his time at Anfield. He played alongside former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who is now Aston Villa’s manager.
Gerrard replaced Dean Smith in November after Villa endured a poor run of results. He led the club to four wins in his first six games – losing only to Man City and Liverpool – but Villa has now suffered back-to-back defeats against Chelsea and Brentford.
That has left Gerrard’s men 13th in the standings. They are unlikely to be relegated, and they are also unlikely to challenge for a European place, so they may decide to throw everything at the FA Cup, which makes them an interesting soccer pick in this match.
Coutinho is unlikely to be ready in time to play in this game. Tyrone Mings will be back after serving a suspension, while Ollie Watkins should have recovered from an illness and he could partner Danny Ings in the attack. Bertrand Traore is at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Leon Bailey is still out injured for Aston Villa.
Rangnick revealed that midfielder Paul Pogba will be out for another month. Shaw and Scott McTominay are suspended for Man Utd’s next Premier League game – which is also against Aston Villa – but they can play in this game. Eric Bailly is at the AFCON, but Man Utd have no other injury problems.
FA Cup Pick: Both Teams to Score (-120) at BetMGM
FA Cup Pick: Aston Villa +0.75 Asian Handicap (+100) at DraftKings
FA Cup Pick: Cristiano Ronaldo to Score (+105) at Caesars Sportsbook