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An interesting duel, the Red Devils' plan to beat Aston Villa

By Angus Barnes

An interesting duel, the Red Devils' plan to beat Aston Villa

Man Utd will travel to face Aston Villa and will look to repeat their victory in December.

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It looked like a possible turning point in Manchester United's season. Now they need to prove it really was. Erik ten Hag will be urging his side to do the double over Aston Villa when the two sides meet this weekend, in a match that will have a huge bearing on the very success of their season.

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Villa currently occupy the final top-four spot in the Premier League and sit eight points ahead of United. If they win, the gap will widen to 11 points; if they lose, it will be cut down to just five. It means United's faint hopes of Champions League qualification, and the riches that come with it, could be killed or revived by Sunday evening. There is an awful lot at stake.

United have won four of six matches played since their Boxing Day victory over Villa, while Unai Emery's side have won just three of their seven matches. There is certainly a reason to feel confident. More so, because United appear to have the ideal blueprint to beat Villa. It must be said that the away team were the better side for a large part of their previous meeting and contributed to their own downfall, but United still had to be in a position to exploit it.

Villa raced into a deserved two-goal lead but were clearly tiring in the second half, with some sloppy decision-making and a reckless high line that offered Ten Hag's side a way back into the game. While Emery might earn a lot of praise for a distinctive style of play, it was naive to stick to it when United's only real threat was as a counter-attacking side given their explosive pace in the forward line.

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The warning signs were there early on after the restart when Alejandro Garnacho had a goal narrowly disallowed after an explosive break from him and Marcus Rashford. Shortly after, they would get their reward for a similar move when Bruno Fernandes won back possession, released Rashford down the left, and his low cross into the box was tapped in by Garnacho.

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