FA Cup: Manchester United vs. Aston Villa odds, preview and pick

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Jason Ence

January 6th, 2022

The third round of the FA Cup kicks off this weekend, and Premier League sides Manchester United and Aston Villa will square off at Old Trafford on Monday afternoon, as both seek to begin a run for England’s storied domestic cup.

Manchester United vs. Aston Villa odds

Manchester UnitedDrawAston Villa

Manchester United struggles to adapt to Rangnick’s tactics

Since the appointment of manager Ralph Rangnick, the results for Manchester United have been a mixed bag. A COVID-19 outbreak within the club caused a match postponement and delayed the implementation of his “gegenpress” tactics, but his 4-2-2-2 formation has players struggling to understand what is required of them, as many players are playing in unfamiliar positions.

After their embarrassing 1-0 defeat to Wolves on Monday, their first defeat to Wolverhampton in 42 years, defender Luke Shaw said the team lacks cohesion and made the statement, “maybe the manager can bring some more ideas of what he wants on the pitch.” It was a damning statement about a manager who was brought in to right the ship following struggles in November under former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Wolves took 15 shots in the first half, the most United had conceded at Old Trafford in nearly 20 years, and Rangnick switched the team to a 3-5-2 formation to stem the tide.

While it helped, it was not enough, as Joao Moutinho rifled home from 20 yards to give them the victory. Defender Phil Jones, making his first appearance for the club in almost two entire years, was arguably their best player, while the star names struggled.

Now, Rangnick turns his attention to the FA Cup, likely United’s only real hope for silverware this season. With the Premier League all but out of reach, and the odds of winning Champions League quite low, United will be under pressure to win the competition.

Captain Harry Maguire is expected to return, possibly as part of a three-man back line, while Shaw and Scott McTominay are certain to start, given they will be suspended for their Premier League trip to Villa Park next Saturday. 

Aston Villa comes down from Gerrard “bounce”

After the appointment of Steven Gerrard in November, Aston Villa won their first four of their first five matches, as they clearly received the “new manager bounce,” with the only defeat coming to Manchester City.

Since then, they have lost three of their ensuing four matches, falling to Liverpool and Chelsea before a 2-1 loss to Brentford this weekend.

A Danny Ings goal put Villa ahead, but a late first-half goal saw the match equalized, before a calamity of errors led to Brentford’s winner in the 83rd minute. Villa were without Ollie Watkins, Ashley Young, and his center back pairing of Axel Tuanzebe and Tyrone Mings.

Young will miss a bit of time with a toe fracture, while Tuanzebe is moving to Napoli. Villa will also be without right back Bertrand Traore, who has left the team to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Villa could be tempted to rotate the squad a bit with the rematch in Premier League on Saturday, but like United, this is their only hope to win silverware.

However, Villa have not won any of their last six FA Cup matches, dating back to their 2016 fourth-round 4-0 defeat to Manchester City. This comes after actually reaching the final of the 2014-15 competition, where they lost to Arsenal.

Trends and Free Pick

Villa won their earlier match against United this season, a 1-0 win at Old Trafford in September. Kortney Hause headed home from a corner kick in the 88th minute.

They have been a solid side since Gerrard took over, and have a good chance to take the victory.

A lot rides on who is selected for both sides in this match. I expect United’s players to answer following the embarrassment against Wolves and the struggles the match before against Newcastle.

However, there could be heavy rotation among both teams due to injuries and the congested schedule over the past month.

Picking a winner is a tough proposition, so I think the total is the better route to go. Manchester United have managed multiple goals just once in their six matches since Rangnick took charge, while Villa have scored just four total goals in their last four matches.

Given the rule change that will not see any replays if third- or fourth-round matches are level after regulation, I expect to see a cagey affair, with both teams struggling to finish off chances. Take the Under in this one, with a real possibility that we see extra time.

Score prediction: Manchester United 2, Aston Villa 0

Free pick: Under 2.5 goals (+102)