Manchester United vs. Aston Villa: Keys to Victory for Each Team

Ryan DavenportContributor INovember 10, 2012

BRAGA, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 07:  Javier Hernandez of Manchester United celebrates his goal with Wayne Rooney during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between SC Braga and Manchester United at the Estadio AXA on November 7, 2012 in Braga, Portugal.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Today's Premier League matchup between Manchester United and Aston Villa features two teams that enter the match in vastly different situations.

For the Red Devils, the match against Aston Villa is simply another opportunity to build up a cushion on their No. 1 spot in the league tables, as the club sits just one point ahead of Chelsea and two points up on Manchester City heading into the weekend.

At the other end of the pitch, Aston Villa's current performance in 2012-13 has been very disappointing, as the Villans find themselves in 17th place, just one spot above the relegation zone. Though the club is four points ahead of No. 18 Reading, the match against Manchester United represents an opportunity for them to claim a victory they can build on, because there haven't been many such occasions thus far this season.

In preparation for today's league match at Villa Park, here are each of the two teams' keys to victory.


Aston Villa

Play Strong Defensively and Take Advantage of Opportunities

Since the Premier League began play, of the Villans' 40 matches against Man U, Aston Villa has come away with just three wins.

In order to change that, Aston Villa will need to take the first-place Red Devils by surprise on Saturday. The only way that's even remotely possible is by playing a conservative style that minimizes the vaunted United offense's chances to get quality shots on keeper Brad Guzan.

If they're able to limit the Red Devils' offensive opportunities, the Villans will have to take advantage of the few chances they get inside Man U's box, because they won't be able to out-gun Sir Alex Ferguson's squad otherwise.

That task will be harder without Darren Bent on the pitch, as The Daily Mail is reporting that he will miss another match to injury.

Darren Bent will again be missing from Paul Lambert's squad as Aston Villa attempt to improve one of the worst records in the Premier League on Saturday.

A scan on the ankle of the injured England international has proved inconclusive and Villa's boss is unsure when he will return to action.

Bent missed last week's victory over Sunderland and will again be absent for Manchester United's visit.

On the bright side, Gabby Agbonlahor, who has the second-most goals of any Premier League player against Manchester United, will be returning to the pitch for the Villans. 


Manchester United

Let the Offense Dictate the Match's Outcome

If Manchester United turns this match into an open-ended affair, they'll undoubtedly claim the club's 18th consecutive victory at Villa Park, because Aston Villa simply does not have the offensive weapons to keep up with Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and company.

Lead by Van Persie's eight goals, the Red Devils boast a balanced attack, as they have a number of secondary scorers such as Javier Hernandez, Shinji Kagawa and Rafael, who are all capable of finding the back of the net, especially against a rather mediocre opponent such as Aston Villa.

Unless Aston Villa can keep Man U from consistently generating scoring chances, which appears overwhelmingly unlikely, the Premier League's most potent offense will lead the club to its ninth victory of the season.