Aston Villa take on Manchester United this weekend in a huge clash in the Premier League.
Unai Emery has said the game is worth ‘six points’ to his team as both sides push for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification. Villa, who have performed above all expectations this season, can put clear distance between themselves and United with a win at Villa Park.
Ahead of the game, we’ve picked our Aston Villa and Manchester United Combined XI.
Goalkeeper: Emi Martinez – Aston Villa
No arguments on this one, with Emiliano Martinez established as one of the best goalkeepers in the division. The Argentina international is often celebrated as the ‘best in the world’ at Villa Park and won the Yashin Trophy at last winter’s Ballon d’Or ceremony.
The World Cup and Copa América champion will be hoping to take his talent onto the Champions League stage with Aston Villa next season.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) February 4, 2024
Right-back: Diogo Dalot – Manchester United
Diogo Dalot has not always been overly convincing at Old Trafford, but the right-back is producing arguably the best form of his Manchester United career right now.
Dalot is beginning to blend his attacking threat with defensive duties and produced a brilliant last-ditch block against West Ham last weekend, in an example of his improvement defensively.
Listen to the Old Trafford roar when Diogo Dalot made this block… 🔊 pic.twitter.com/UyB0BDA9g9
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 7, 2024
Centre-back: Raphael Varane – Manchester United
Raphael Varane’s time at Manchester United might not have reached the heights expected but the Frenchman remains one of the most decorated defenders in the division.
The four-time Champions League winner exudes calm at centre-back and, when fit, is a leader at the heart of the defence. In terms of defending his box, there are few better, with Varane exceptional in his positioning and anticipation.
Centre-back: Pau Torres – Aston Villa
Long linked with a move to Manchester United, Pau Torres was viewed as a coup when signing for Aston Villa in a £33m deal last summer. The Spanish centre-back has slotted seamlessly into Unai Emery’s team, offering confident carry in possession and elegant left-footed balance to the backline.
Having previously reached the Champions League semi-finals with Villarreal, he’s aiming to be a part of Aston Villa’s first campaign among Europe’s elite since the early eighties.
Left-back: Luke Shaw – Manchester United
Luke Shaw’s return for Manchester United is a massive boost for Erik ten Hag, who has seen the influential left-back plagued by fitness problems this season.
A crucial component in the club’s build-up and a provider of excellent service from wide areas, Shaw will be a certain starter for England in the summer, if he can regain his rhythm across the run-in.
Midfield: Casemiro – Manchester United
The return of Casemiro has coincided with Manchester United’s upturn in results, with the Brazilian offering composure and experience at the base of the midfield. After an outstanding first season in the Premier League, Casemiro has appeared a step slower on occasion this, but the five-time Champions League winner’s quality is still evident.
He has partnered with exciting teenager Kobbie Mainoo in recent games and Erik ten Hag believes the two can benefit from each other.
“Casemiro is a very important player for our game, so we are happy he’s back and Kobbie Mainoo can learn a lot from that togetherness,” Ten Hag said this week.
“Kobbie is very coachable and Casemiro has so much experience and that can even accelerate his development. When they play together, I think they can benefit each other.”
Midfield: Douglas Luiz – Aston Villa
Brilliant in a box-to-box role for Aston Villa this season, Douglas Luiz’s performances have turned the heads of top clubs across Europe.
The 25-year-old has six goals and four assists in the Premier League, including a wonderful outside-of-the-boot ball for Ollie Watkins at Sheffield United earlier this month.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) February 4, 2024
Midfield: Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United
Bruno Fernandes might divide opinion, but the statistics don’t lie when telling the tale of the midfielder’s influence. No player in the Premier League has created more chances (62) than the Manchester United captain, while he tops Europe’s top five leagues for shot-creating actions.
Fernandes will be hoping to continue his strong recent record in this fixture, having scored seven goals against Aston Villa. He has netted on each of his three previous visits to Villa Park.
Bruno Fernandes has the most shot-creating actions in Europe’s big 5 leagues so far this season, with 127.
Magic. 🧙 pic.twitter.com/KtonQlY60N
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) February 9, 2024
Forward: Leon Bailey – Aston Villa
Leon Bailey has found his form this season with the Aston Villa fans finally seeing the true talent of the winger. After a patchy first two seasons in the Premier League, Bailey has evolved into one of the most effective wide players in the division.
The Jamaica international has seven goals and six assists in the Premier League this season, averaging a goal involvement every 78.4 minutes.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) February 3, 2024
Forward: Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
Marcus Rashford’s underwhelming performances have been a narrative in Manchester United’s season, but the forward’s ceiling remains high. Last season, Rashford became the first player to score 30 goals in a season for the Red Devils in over a decade, claiming the club’s Player of the Year award.
A recent return to the scoresheet offers hope that Rashford can fire Erik ten Hag’s team towards the top four across the run-in.
Forward: Ollie Watkins – Aston Villa
Ollie Watkins is having a brilliant season at Aston Villa, with his form having made him a strong favourite to earn inclusion with England at this summer’s European Championship.
Watkins has scored 16 goals in all competitions and leads the Premier League for assists (10), alongside Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier.
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 3, 2024
The 28-year-old recently reached 50 league goals for the club and only Dwight Yorke (60) and Gabby Agbonlahor (73) have scored more goals for Aston Villa in the Premier League.