Premier League: Three reasons behind Aston Villa’s remarkable rise during the 2020/21 season

Dean Smith’s Aston Villa are certainly enjoying the rollercoaster of a season they are currently experiencing, as they sit in eighth and have two games in hand to still play. At the moment, they are only six points off fourth-place Chelsea, and with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur having quite the on and off campaign, it would not be a total surprise to see some of the mid-table teams making a breakthrough of their own and finishing in the top half of the league.

Having a glance at the Premier League table, the competition and race to finish in the Champions League and Europa League has been exciting and thrilling for the neutrals, purely because of the fact that Liverpool are having a below-par campaign, and Manchester City have had a slow start at the beginning of the season, two main teams who are normally sky high above the rest of the league.

As we have already passed gameweek 24 of the league campaign, there is enough time for further disappointments and upsets to be produced, which could work in the favour for a football club like Aston Villa, who have not finished in the top half of the Premier League since the 2010/11 season. In the meantime, the Villains will be looking to take it one game at a time from now till the very end.

So, the main question now is; what are the key factors behind Aston Villa’s incredible season so far?

The Jack Grealish show

Having directly contributed to 16 out of Aston Villa’s 36 league goals, Jack Grealish is on the form of his life as he is showing to be one of the best players in both the Premier League and in Europe. With his ability to dominate down the left flank, his pure quality to create key chances after key chances with ease, and being regarded as the most fouled player in Europe, he’s getting the weekly attention and well-deserved praise that he should have been receiving a very long time ago, in all honesty.

Since the lack of goals was a huge issue for the club in their battle for survival last season, Aston Villa have managed to impressively improve on this department with the arrivals of Ollie Watkins and Ross Barkley, who have the perfect understanding with Grealish. And because of this magnificent trio, especially due to the club captain, the side have been able to demolish Liverpool at home as well as confidently beat the likes of Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Fulham and West Brom this term.

Second best defence in the league, joint with Chelsea 

One of the few areas that the side were very poor at handling in the previous campaign was the defensive phase, as the Villains conceded 65 league goals throughout the Premier League 2019/20 season, with only 20th place Norwich City conceding more goals than them. However, six months or so forward, Dean Smith’s men have the second best defence in the league along with Chelsea, clearly demonstrating how far they have come, from losing 1-6 at home to Man City, losing 1-4 at home and 4-0 away to Leicester last season, to conceding 24 goals in 22 league games so far this campaign.

The side’s defensive improvement does correlate with the first factor, the Jack Grealish show, as both himself and Ollie Watkins are superb at holding up the ball in the final third of the pitch, leading to the team protecting the ball high up the pitch and conceding less chances. Not only that, but with the crucial arrivals of Emiliano Martinez and Matthew Cash in the summer, as well as the consistent displays of Ezri Konsa, Matt Targett and Tyrone Mings, the side have a proper unit in the backline.

Emiliano Martinez is proving to be a superb signing

Emiliano Martinez, who arrived at Villa Park in mid-September from Arsenal, is proving to be worth every single penny of the £17million fee that the Villains had paid for the Argentine shot-stopper. The 28-year-old has kept the second most clean sheets (12) and the fourth most saves (84) in the Premier League, showing how much impact and influence an individual can provide on his own, as he continues to show that his former club have made a mistake in preferring Bernd Leno over him.

If Martinez can remain consistent from now till the end of the season as well as help Aston Villa to a finish in the top half of the league table, it would not be an actual surprise to see him being mentioned as one of the few goalkeepers to be placed into the Premier League Team of the Season. Not only that, with the current Argentina squad consisting of goalkeepers such as Franco Armani, Agustin Marchesin and Esteban Andrada, Emilino Martinez most certainly deserves a regular call up and should be the main option as the country’s number one keeper, especially with his fine form.

Man Utd: Three key battles to look out for ahead of the Everton fixture at Old Trafford

Going into gameweek 23, with the key fixture of the weekend being between Liverpool and Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United have the huge opportunity of either closing the gap on the league leaders or extending their distance away from the teams below them, should they beat an Everton side that have been knocking around just below the top four spots.

The head-to-head amongst the two teams is predicted to be an aggressive and intense battle, as both sides have shown the high quality of energy, movement and work rate time after time this season. Not only that, but Carlo Ancelotti’s men head into the weekend as one of the best away teams in the league, as they have only lost on two out of ten occasions away from Goodison Park.

Meanwhile, for the Red Devils, the side’s home form in the league has been quite on and off, where they have won five games, lost four games and drawn twice. Although they are currently sitting in second place, United cannot afford to drop more points at Old Trafford, whether they want to challenge for the league or finish confidently in the top four, the form at home must be rock-solid.

With no further ado, here are the three key battles to look out for ahead of the fixture…

Marcus Rashford vs Mason Holgate

Although he has not consistently been involved in the goals and assists in recent weeks for his team, Marcus Rashford continues to look dangerous with his dribbling and movement on the ball as well as his linkup play down the left flank with Luke Shaw. Also, with his ability to roam into other areas of the pitch, he has shown great understanding of being a threat and a problem for the opposition on the right wing, an area that the side are missing the presence of a winger that is a consistent creator.

Rashford is expected to be up against Mason Holgate, who could potentially be the preferred option over Seamus Coleman at right-back, with his recovery pace and physicality being superior when compared to the latter. Despite being known for his natural abilities as a centre-back, the 24-year-old has the versatility to be utilised at right-back and even at defensive-midfield, which could prove to be more than useful for Ancelotti, as his squad tends to pick up a few injuries here and there.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin vs Harry Maguire

Currently on the best goal-scoring form of his life, Dominic Calvert-Lewin could certainly finish the season with 20-25 league goals under his belt, should he keep his determination and hunger for goals at a high level. The forward is only one league goal away from matching his 2019/20 Premier League season of 13 league goals, showing how far he has come as a player personally and how much he has improved since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti at Goodison Park in December 2019.

Calvert-Lewin will be in for a really intense and physical battle with Harry Maguire, who has got the better of the Everton forward on two occasions so far this campaign. The captain of Manchester United has proven to be influential individual in the backline for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, where his leadership skills, aerial prowess and composure on the ball has helped the team, even when he is not appreciated highly by everyone. On top of that, Maguire has played in every single minute of Premier League football so far this season, and is yet to miss a game through injury or suspension.

Pogba vs Abdoulaye Doucoure

After having the perfect month at a personal level and in terms of his contributions to the team, Paul Pogba is back in business and is expected to continue to show his excellence on Saturday evening after being well rested in the mid-week fixture against Southampton. With crucial goals away to Burnley and Fulham in the league as well as a dominant performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup, the Frenchman is showing to be at his best, which is perfect news for all parties at the club.

On the other hand, for Everton, Abdoulaye Doucoure will be looking to play in the double pivot alongside Andre Gomes, where he will be hoping to nullify the threat that the Manchester United midfield pose through Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba. Along with his defensive duties and the shift he will be putting in for the team, the side will look to breakthrough and attack through the midfielder himself, as he has shown his ability to dribble and take on two-three players with ease.

Man Utd: Three key battles to look out for ahead of the huge Liverpool fixture

Going into gameweek 19, one of the main fixtures to look out for, is Liverpool vs Manchester United on Sunday, two teams who have been head-to-head with one another since the early days of Premier League football. Both sides are now the top-two most successful clubs across England.

The match is expected to be a close battle and an interesting one, as Jurgen Klopp’s men currently have the best home form in the league and are incredibly yet to be defeated at Anfield so far this season. On the other hand, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side at the moment have the best record away from home in the league, as they have impressively achieved 22 points out of a possible 24 points.

As the fixture is between the two main teams who are first and second in the league, the match may not be filled with many goals or a large number of chances being created, with both sides typically wanting to limit any personal mistakes and aim to pounce on the opposition’s errors and faults.

Without further ado, here are the three key battles to look out for ahead of the match…

Marcus Rashford vs Trent Alexander-Arnold

With seven goals and five assists to his name in 17 league appearances, Marcus Rashford will be hoping to develop and take his consistency in the final third up a notch, as the Premier League viewers are strictly holding him to reach 15 to 20 league goals per season. When compared to his team-mates in the league, the 23-year-old has completed the most dribbles (42) and the third most key passes (21), proving how much the player has improved, especially under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Rashford will be in for an exciting and tight duel with international football colleague, Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is considered as one of the best right-backs in the Premier League and is an influential player for Liverpool on both sides of the pitch. Despite some unconvincing performances this campaign and the calf injury which kept him on the sidelines for a couple of weeks in November, Alexander-Arnold will be looking to turn his form around with a solid display against Rashford.

Sadio Mane vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Liverpool have been relying on the goals of Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino to get them to where they currently are, but it’s the intelligent movement and unselfish play from Sadio Mane, that allows the attack to be so smooth and purely effective. The Senegal international may not be at his best compared to how prolific he was in the last two seasons, however, his inside movement from the left flank, allows more time and space for Andrew Robertson, who can provide the much needed crosses into penalty box as he has made a name for himself as a key creator.

Mane will have to be closely marked and watched by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who hasn’t proven to be one of the key players for Manchester United like he had done so in the previous campaign. Nevertheless, the right-back when compared to the rest of the team in terms of defensive statistics, has completed the most tackles (49), most crosses blocked (19) and second most interceptions (19).

Bruno Fernandes vs Thiago Alcantara

Although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has changed the selection around in midfield, whether it’s a pivot of Fred and Scott McTominay or Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba, there will be no doubts over Bruno Fernandes starting for one single moment, who will be the leading the team through his creativity and decision-making. He has incredibly managed to score 11 goals and produce seven assists in 17 league appearances, as he continues to prove to be one of the best football players in the league.

Meanwhile, for Liverpool, Thiago Alcantara is expected to play in the number six position in midfield, where he will be looking to progress the ball from the deep areas in midfield up to the final third of the pitch. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich midfielder has missed many games so far this season through COVID-19 and a knee injury, but he is now back to full fitness and is starting to get back to his best, as the Spaniard will be aiming to play a crucial role for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

Man Utd: How have the late-summer signings done so far at Old Trafford?

Manchester United aren’t expected to be highly active during the January transfer window, despite the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could desperately do with one or two new faces at Old Trafford.

Given the recent reports from the English press, the Red Devils are looking to offload the likes of Daniel James, Phil Jones and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, whilst there are mild rumours of a potential signing Moises Caicedo, who is a 19-year-old defensive-midfielder that plays for Ecuadorian side Independiente del Valle and has been recommended to the club by ex-player Antonio Valencia.

As there is still a number of defensive deadwood remaining in the squad, it would not be a surprise to see the club sell some individuals before they decide to buy anyone. In the meantime, putting the possible ins and outs to a side of the January transfer window, it’s time to look at the players that came into the club at the start of the season and analyse on how well they are doing so far.

With no further ado, here is the review of each individual that have arrived at Old Trafford…

Alex Telles

It took quite some time for Alex Telles to receive his first appearance and actually get going for Manchester United, as he was returning to full fitness since the last time he had played for previous club FC Porto in the Portuguese league. Even after his debut against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, which he performed at a top level as a left wing-back, the Brazilian was unable to play further as he was tested positive for COVID-19 whilst being away on international break.

Even though he was out on the sidelines for a couple of United games, Telles has been able to provide the ideal competition to regular starter Luke Shaw, who has taken his performances and contribution on both sides of the pitch to a whole new level this campaign. Not only that, but he has also produced quite a few good personal displays against the likes of West Brom, Southampton, West Ham and Sheffield United, with the best is yet to come from the 28-year-old left-back.

Rating: 7/10

Donny van de Beek

With only 253 minutes of Premier League football under his belt, eight out of his ten league appearances coming in the latter stages of the game from the bench, it’s not been the dream start for Donny van de Beek and his new adventure at Old Trafford. As the number ten position is covered by the key player in Bruno Fernandes, it is unlikely that the former Ajax midfielder is expected to get game time, but he may be kindly rotated into the team with the EFL and FA Cup fixtures coming up.

It is difficult to review how the Dutchman is doing for Manchester United, as he has not been given enough minutes to prove himself to everyone, and most importantly to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. However, with the Red Devils remaining in the cup competitions, along with the return of Europa League next month and their pursuit of finishing as high as possible in the Premier League, it can easily be stated that van de Beek will feature more from now till the end of the current season.

Rating: 5/10

Edinson Cavani

In 300 minutes of league football and in his first season in England, Edinson Cavani has notched three goals and two assists, which is the type of influence one would expect from a world class striker that has proven himself in France and Italy for the last 12 years. His best performance so far was away at Southampton, where he came on at half-time as the team were down by two goals, and his two goals and assist for Bruno Fernandes’ goal allowed the team to make a magical comeback.

On top of that, the Uruguayan forward can be the perfect individual for the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood to learn from, as his movement off the ball and ruthlessness in front of goal is what they need. If Cavani can end the season with helping the players in his department and assist the team to win a trophy or two, he will surely be considered as a top notch signing.

Rating: 8.5/10

Man Utd: The Red Devils hold on to pick up the three key points at home to Aston Villa

With Everton dropping points at home to West Ham and the fixture of the weekend being between Chelsea and Manchester City in gameweek 17, it allows Manchester United to take the advantage of the current situation should they beat Aston Villa, who have one of the best away records in the league. Dean Smith’s men have had quite the turnaround in the last six months of football, from finishing one point above the relegation zone last year, to sitting in seventh place at the moment.

Looking at the match as a whole, the visitors had edged out the hosts with the control of the game and the possession of the ball, especially in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the match, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side intended on defending deep and holding onto the lead whilst the Villains were piling on the pressure and were showing good moments through Jack Grealish and Matthew Cash.

The Red Devils were the better and stronger team in the first half of the match, showing good composure on and off the ball, but were lacking the cutting edge in the final third of the pitch. However, the moment that the home side came in the 40th minute of the game, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross from the right flank was met by the head Anthony Martial, which was guided into the back of the net, with the questions being raised of how quickly Aston Villa were caught off guard.

The intensity continued after the half-time break and the attacking moves by both teams were much better, with two big chances being created for each team. Villa were able to pick up the equaliser in the 55th minute, as the side took a quick free kick out onto the left side into Jack Grealish, and his low driven cross was perfectly met by Bertrand Traore, who slotted the ball past David De Gea.

Manchester United regained their lead as Paul Pogba was brought down by Douglas Luiz in the penalty box, leading to Bruno Fernandes stepping up to take the penalty and scoring his 11th league goal of the season. With this result, it allows the Red Devils to remain in second place and level on points with league leaders Liverpool, and Dean Smith’s Aston Villa have now drop to seventh place.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

The French duo are slowly returning back to their best

It’s not been the perfect of starts to the season so far, for both Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, with the former lacking in confidence and failing to show his consistency in front of goal, and the latter is finally in a healthy state and is distanced away from any defensive duties. If the Frenchman can perform to the highest level and on a regular basis for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, it could be the difference of finishing strongly in the top four positions to pushing for a crucial title challenge.

As Edinson Cavani is unavailable due to a three-game suspension, it was important for Martial to take this opportunity and get back into goal-scoring form, which he did when he gave his side the much needed lead in the 40th minute of the game. Now, focusing more on Pogba, who played in a preferred position of his on the left-wing, where he went on to win a penalty, completed two key passes, created one big chance as well as completed 37 accurate passes out of an attempted 48.

Eric Bailly continues to perform with back-to-back dominant performances

With Victor Lindelof currently on the sidelines with an ongoing back injury, a lot of doubts and questions were raised on how the partnership between Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire would turn out to be, especially since the last time they partnered together, it led to a 6-1 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur. However, the pair in the heart of defence have been top notch and are complimenting each other well, keeping two clean sheets in their last four games in all competition.

The Ivory Coast international’s presence and composure in the backline has proven to be very influential to the manager and most importantly to his team-mates, as the team does not show any nerve-wrecking or inconsistent moments when he is in the starting line-up. Due to his burst of pace, passing ability on the ball and his intelligence to read the game, it allows the side’s full-backs and the midfielders to play higher up the pitch, with the solid protection that Eric Bailly kindly provides.

Manchester United are finally looking to be heading into the right direction

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United are now level on points with league leaders Liverpool, showing the incredible turnaround they have had to their 2020/21 season, following the poor start that they had as well as being eliminated from the Champions League group stages. Since then, the Red Devils have gone a good run in the league and have not lost a league game since November.

If each player can continue to contribute effectively in the right areas of the pitch, like they are currently doing so, from Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw to Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, then the only way is up for Manchester United. As long as the board and Ed Woodward can deliver one or two players to Solskjaer this month, the football club can finish the season in high flying colours.

Man Utd: Three areas the club should look to upgrade on in the January transfer window

Following an unpredictable start to the Premier League so far this season, Manchester United are currently five points off first-place Liverpool with a game in hand. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men had a slow start to the campaign, but they have been able to turn their form around as all as benefitting from the points dropped by the teams around them, as they presently sit in the top four positions.

With the reports already been raised inside the English media, it is more than possible than Manchester United could be one of the main clubs that will be occupied in the January transfer window. For sure, no comments have been made by the manager himself or from Ed Woodward on signing anyone next month, however, this season could be the best time for the club to challenge for the league title, especially with the likes of Chelsea, Man City and Spurs being inconsistent.

Here are three areas that Manchester United should look to upgrade on in January…


One of the key areas that needs to be addressed is the centre-back position, as the main partnership between Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof has regularly shown its weaknesses and is not strong enough to aim for league titles and trophies. Not only that, but the other options below the pair in Axel Tuanzebe, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are either injury prone or not good enough.

United have a few individuals to choose from, whether they want a short-term solution through Sergio Ramos or Ozan Kabak, with the former yet to renew his contact with Real Madrid whilst the latter has previously linked with the Red Devils along with AC Milan and Liverpool. On the other hand, the club could look into a long-term investment in Dayot Upamecano, who has been linked with the club time and time again and is regarded as one of the best young defenders in Europe.


Given the inconsistent season that Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been having and the lack of competition in the right-back department, it is a must for the club and the manager to bring the much needed quality and depth to improve on this area. Recently, the former Crystal Palace man has been unavailable due to injuries, causing the side to play centre-back Victor Lindelof out of position.

At this moment of time, the side’s option at right back are Wan-Bissaka and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who do not have the ideal skillset to provide qualities on both sides of the pitch. Furthermore, with most of the team’s attack coming from the left flank, the side’s way of playing has become very predictable and obvious, leading to Solskjaer possibly signing a right-back or amending his tactics.


Manchester United’s options in midfield are spot on, in terms of the individuals they require to play in the box-to-box role or in the position as the advanced midfielder. However, all that is missing is the ideal defensive-midfielder, in order to provide the balance to the midfield and offer extra protection to the backline. Due to the club spending a lot of money on centre-back in recent years, the chances of signing another is unlikely, which is why a defensive-midfielder is a huge priority.

With Nemanja Matic rapidly ageing and unable to play on a weekly basis, and Scott McTominay not having the intelligence and passing quality to play as the lone holding midfielder, it leaves the club and the manager with a huge void that requires to be filled in order for the team to confidently challenge for the league title. There aren’t many players to target in this position, but a player like Douglas Luiz, Kalvin Phillips or Denis Zakaria would be perfect, to help the team progress on and off the ball.

Man Utd: The Red Devils prove to be clinical and ruthless against old rivals Leeds United

With the likes of Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur dropping points in their respective games in gameweek 14, it allows Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United to make full use out of this advantage should they beat rivals Leeds United. Marcelo Bielsa’s men have proven to be an exciting and thrilling team so far this season, as his side play with pure energy and incredible intensity.

Looking at the match as a whole, the visitors had unsurprisingly dominated 60% possession of the ball but had only went onto to create three big chances and complete three shots on target. On the other hand, the Red Devils proceeded forward with 26 shots, 14 shots on target and seven big chances being created, something that hasn’t happened at Old Trafford for a really long time.

Manchester United started the match off in quick fashion, catching the Leeds United midfield high up the pitch and scoring twice through Scott McTominay in the first few minutes of the games. The hosts continued to pile on the misery, with a well-taken goal from Bruno Fernandes in the penalty box and a headed attempt from Victor Lindelof in the 37th minute of the match. Even after being down by four goals, Leeds continued to attack and attack in their usual manner, which rewarded them with a late consolation goal by Liam Cooper just before the half-time break.

The second half consisted of the same intensity and creativity that was seen by both sides in the first half, however, a number of chances were missed by the two teams. Nevertheless, Daniel James scored the side’s fifth goal of the evening in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper, before Bruno Fernandes added another goal from the penalty spot at the 70th minute mark. The Whites were able to get a goal back through Stuart Dallas, but a comeback was impossible for Bielsa’s men.

Overall, with Manchester United thrashing Leeds United, it allows the team to move into third place and with a game in hand. Meanwhile, for Marcelo Bielsa’s side, they continue to remain in 14th place, seven points above the relegation zone and with a goal difference of minus six.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Manchester United’s home form has finally been turned around

The Red Devils have had issues time and time again at Old Trafford this season, where they have conceded cheap goals, failed to control the match for majority of the game and had problems with not taking their chances. However, it looks like the side are starting to turn a new page with their home, as they managed to raise the bar of their energy, intensity and urgency on and off the ball.

Following the side’s huge victory over Leeds United, the team’s results at home in the league so far this season are as followed; two wins, two draws and three losses. In order for Solskjaer and his men to put forward a potential race for the league title, they will have to keep the consistency up in the energy levels, the performances and most importantly, the results at home, as they did so today.

Scott McTominay came to Old Trafford with his shooting boots on

With Kalvin Phillips expected to mark Bruno Fernandes very closely in the early moments of the game, the instructions looked quite clear from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, for both Fred and Scott McTominay to be high up the pitch to help the team attack effectively. On that note, the Scottish international made some good late runs into the penalty box, which was rewarded in full, as he went on to become the first player in Premier League history to score two goals in first three minutes.

When growing up as a teenager, McTominay used to play as a striker before he became a central midfielder, which should not been seen as a surprise as he took both of his goals with excellent composure. Along with his goals, he provided the much needed presence on both sides of the pitch, especially with the team proving to have a leaky defence and not enough numbers in the final third.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got it spot on with his setup and line-up selection

A lot of questions were raised by the Manchester United supporters on social media ahead of the match, in relation to Daniel James starting, Donny van de Beek and Paul Pogba on the bench as well as what formation would be used against Leeds United. However, any doubts or overthinking of the manager’s setup and line-up selection were forgotten by the half-time break, as the Red Devils had a 4-1 lead over the Whites, leaving the visitors with absolutely no chance of making a comeback.

Along with having the setup and the line-up selection spot on, it does seem like Solskjaer’s pre-match talk with the team made a huge difference, as many individuals barring the English players in the first XI would not know about the rivalry between Manchester United and Leeds United. If the manager and the players can build on from this performance and result, it can allow the side to confidently finish in the top four positions, or even go on to putting on a potential title challenge.

Man Utd: Three key battles to look out for as the Red Devils take on old time rivals Leeds United

Going into gameweek 14, one of the key fixtures to look out for is Manchester United against Leeds United on Sunday evening, two teams who have constantly been at each other’s throats since 1926.

The match is expected to be filled with a number of goals, especially with Leeds playing a high line, which will be exposed by the creativity and burst of pace of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. On the other hand, Marcelo Bielsa’s style of play is proving to be dominant and ruthless, as his team will aim to run rings around Manchester United’s midfield and get in behind their full-backs.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping to turn the side’s home form around, as the Red Devils have only won one league game so far this season at Old Trafford, picking up five points out of a potential 15. And looking at the Whites’ results away from home, it is fairly balance, as they have won three games and lost three games, scoring on ten occasions whilst conceding 11 times in six games.

With no further ado, here are the three key battles to look out for ahead of the match…

Marcus Rashford vs Luke Ayling

With five goals and four assists to his name in 12 league appearances, Marcus Rashford will be aiming to improve on his consistency and efficiency in the final third as the neutrals and the Old Trafford faithful are expecting him to reach 20 league goals by the end of the season. Despite some poor and unconvincing moments, he has had in front of goal, the 23-year-old is starting to get back to his best, where he glides past players with pure ease and does not overthink his shots in the box.

Rashford will be in for an exciting and tight battle with Luke Ayling, who is Leeds’ main option in the right-back position and is a player that is not afraid to run up and down the flank, as he has completed the second most dribbles and fourth most key passes, when compared to his team-mates. Depending on how much possession Leeds go onto to dominate at Old Trafford on Sunday evening, Ayling has to keep close tabs on Rashford, as he can make an impact in a matter of seconds.

Jack Harrison vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Leeds have been able to attack and conquer through the likes of Helder Costa, Mateusz Klich, Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo, but it’s the key individual in Jack Harrison that has the team ticking from midfield to attack and he is someone that really gets the best out of the players inside the penalty box. The 24-year-old has an interesting background ahead of the game, as he has previously spent time in the youth academy at both Liverpool and Manchester United, seven years in the latter’s academy system, and is currently a Leeds United player on loan from parent club Manchester City.

Harrison will have to be closely marked and watched by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has had great difficulties in kicking off to a good start this campaign and has had ongoing problems on both sides of the pitch. The former Crystal Palace defender has made a name for himself with the types of interceptions and tackles he has produced over the last 18-24 months, though, he has not been able to get replicate it this campaign, as he is mistiming his defensive output and is seen as a weak link.

Bruno Fernandes vs Kalvin Phillips

Although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has constantly changed the selection around in midfield, there will be no doubts over Bruno Fernandes starting for one single moment, who will be the leading the team through his creativity and decision-making. The Portuguese international continues to show his influence and importance in the middle of the pitch, as he is able to get the best out of key attackers in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashfords whilst he proceeds to rack up the goals and assists himself.

Meanwhile for Leeds United, Kalvin Phillips is expected to continue to play in the lone defensive-midfield role, where he will be sitting in front of the defence, providing the much needed balance and stability to the midfield. The 25-year-old will be looking to nullify the threat of Bruno Fernandes, along with helping his own team in the build-up to their attack, something he is already well-known for.

Man Utd: Three things we learnt from the Red Devils win over struggling Sheffield United

With both Chelsea and Manchester City dropping points in their respective games early in the week, it was crucial for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to take the advantage of the moment by beating struggling Sheffield United, who have only picked up one point so far this season and are embarrassingly yet to win a league game.

Looking at the match as a whole, the visitors had dominated possession and created more chances and had more shots than the hosts, who caused a number of problems to Manchester United in the first half but were unable to make the moments count in the final third of the pitch. Though, they made the key moment count in the 5th minute of the match, where Dean Henderson thought he had enough time on the ball and was aggressively pressed by Oliver Burke, leading to David McGoldrick slotting the ball into an empty goal.

However, once again, Manchester United kicked on from being a goal behind and managed to take the lead by the half-time break, with both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford scoring the much needed goals leaving the Sheffield United manager and players in absolute shock. The Red Devils sealed the three points in the second half of the game with Rashford scoring his second goal of the night early in the second half.

Despite McGoldrick scoring a late consolation in the 87th minute of the game, the Blades did not show enough creativity, intensity and urgency to push on for a huge equaliser in the final seconds of the match. Overall, with Manchester United wining 3-2 over Sheffield United, it allows the team to move into sixth-place with a game in hand, whilst Chris Wilder’s men remain in 20th place, picking up only one point out of a potential 39.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Victor Lindelof is proving to be the best centre-back at the club  

He’s had his ups and downs since moving to Old Trafford in 2017, however, Victor Lindelof is finally proving to be the best centre-back at the club, especially over the last couple of months. For sure, he may not be recognised as one of the best defenders in the Premier League let alone in Europe, but he is doing more than enough to help the side on both sides of the pitch, through his intelligent defending and ability on the ball.

The Swedish international played an inch-perfect ball over the top of Sheffield United’s defence, into the feet of Marcus Rashford, who smashed the ball into the net to give his team the much needed equaliser. Unfortunately, the only issue that remains for Lindelof alongside his lack of aerial ability, is that he is not complimented well by captain Harry Maguire, who is not expected to be dropped by Solskjaer anytime soon.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford return onto the scoresheet

It’s been a slow season so far for the attacking duo in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who are typically expected to hit 15-20 Premier League goals a season, given the experience they have in the league and how much they are individually capable of. Though, with both players scoring the goals for Manchester United on Thursday evening, they will be hoping to get going with their campaign and aim to help the team with their qualities on and off the ball, as it will be the difference of the team finishing in the top four this season or not.

Not only that, but with Edinson Cavani making a huge impact whenever he is playing and Mason Greenwood being constantly hungry for game time, both Martial and Rashford have to ensure they perform consistently and at a high level in order to keep their place in the starting line-up. Looking more into the performance of the pair, the former showed really good movement off the ball and was tracking back time and time again whilst the latter’s burst of pace and dribbling ability was top notch, leaving Solskjaer totally satisfied.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a few important issues he has to iron out

Majority of the Old Trafford faithful will be content with the successful comeback that the team completed at Bramall Lane. On the other hand, the ongoing weaknesses within the manager, the team and the system are still quite clear. The Red Devils constant and key problems at this moment of time, happens to be the side’s lack of control against the teams weaker than them, and the amount of cheap goals that are being conceded.

Furthermore, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to solve another issue of balancing the team whilst having Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the starting line-up, a problem he had at the end of last season and also at the start of the current campaign. Given that the team’s performances and results are inconsistent, the coach has to iron out a few important matters, especially if he wants to continue to manage Manchester United football club.

West Ham 1-3 Man Utd: The Red Devils come from behind again to win the crucial points

After being recently defeated in their Champions League fixture at home to Paris Saint-Germain, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United are back into winning ways as they picked up an important victory away from the home. The Red Devils travelled down South to face West Ham, a team that the side haven’t performed greatly against the last few years, especially at the London Stadium.

Looking at the match as a whole, the visitors had dominated the possession of the ball and for majority of the second half, but it was the hosts that had created the most big chances and also missed the most big chances too. Most importantly, it was David Moyes’ men that took the well-deserved lead in the 38th minute of the game through Tomas Soucek, as Pablo Fornals’ cross from the corner was met by the head of Declan Rice, followed by Soucek tapping it into an empty net.

However, Manchester United were able to turn the game around after the half-time break, with both Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford entering the match for Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek. As the goals came from Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood and Rashford in the final 25 minutes of the game, the Red Devils showed how clinical and ruthless they can be when required.

Overall, when viewing the Premier League table, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are currently in fifth place, three points behind first-place Chelsea and with a game in hand. On the other hand, for the Hammers, they have now drop to seventh place and could drop further in the league, as the likes of Southampton and Wolves are yet to play this weekend and Aston Villa now have two games in hand.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s half-time changes proved to be influential

Manchester United were all over the place in the first half, as they failed to show consistency and composure on and off the ball, allowing West Ham to create enough chances and have no problems on the defensive side of the game. Though, the whole situation turned around with Solskjaer making two important substitutions at the half-time break, as the side began to benefit with the creativity and decision making of Bruno Fernandes as well as the directness and pace of Marcus Rashford.

Once both players had entered the pitch, West Ham were spending most of the second half defending in their own half and trying to keep up with the opposition’s midfield and attack. Given the amount of quality and depth that Solskjaer has available at his disposal, he is able to rotate around in the key areas, rather than draining out the important players like he has done this year.

Manchester United are unable to create and attack without Bruno Fernandes

In the first half of the match, United were absolutely limited to zero chances being created, three shots and with two of them being on target in 45 minutes of football. Not only that, but the side were having great difficulties in reaching into the final third of the pitch, despite the constant high pressure and the aggressive defending from West Ham. It was the first time that Bruno Fernandes had been rested since joining the club, and the side were very slow, lethargic and poor without him.

However, the Portuguese international came to the rescue just after the half-time break, as he went on to produce eight key passes as two big chances were created by the playmaker. With the influence he is proving to have on the team and how is he able to get the best out of his team-mates, it can easily be stated that he is the side’s best signings post the Sir Alex Ferguson era.

Greenwood’s time has come, as both Cavani and Martial are faced with a setback

As Edinson Cavani went off at half-time with a knee injury and so did Anthony Martial just after the hour mark with a groin injury, it leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a rising problem given that the upcoming fixtures are against Leipzig, Manchester City and Sheffield United. However, the manager could have a short-term solution in Mason Greenwood, whose instincts and movement is very unique for a youngster whilst he continues to prove himself as the most clinic attacker at the club.

For sure, the 19-year-old hasn’t had the perfect start to the season, with personal issues he has had off the pitch and the English media being on his case since a mistake he made during the international break back in September. But, it looks like he has now put everything that’s happened the last few months behind him, as Greenwood has opened his account in the Champions League and now in the Premier League. Mason Greenwood can do anything he wants to, the world is his oyster.