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Villa to give United a 'right good go', Fergie wants focus

ESPN staff
April 22, 2013
Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted his team will not be slacking off as they look to reclaim the Premier League title against Aston Villa © Getty Images
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Following Manchester City's collapse at White Hart Lane on Sunday, Manchester United could seal their 20th league title if they defeat relegation-threatened Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday night.

While United have enjoyed imperious form over the visitors throughout the past 15 years, Villa could be the victims in the Theatre of Dreams of a United chasing another crown; a win for the home side will see the trophy return to Salford following a year spent across the other side of the city.

But with the Paul Lambert's side sitting just three points above the drop zone, Monday's fixture could be just as decisive for Villa. Paul Lambert has insisted his side will "give it a right good go" as they continue to fight for their top-flight survival.

Lambert believes his players are refusing to buckle under the twin pressures of playing the champions elect with the fear of relegation chasing them should they lose.

"We're going to give it a right good go," Lambert told the Daily Star. "We want United to know they have been in a game. We don't look like a team that is under threat.

"The momentum we have built up will help us and they (the players) won't be nervous about playing United on their own patch. We played well at The Emirates and at Anfield, so I don't think they will be nervy."

Despite the title being firmly within their grasp, Ferguson is adamant that his team will get the job done and has called for a professional attitude towards the five remaining games of the season.

"There won't be any slacking off," Ferguson told BBC Sport. "(The record) is not beyond us at all. Can Manchester United win five games in a row? How many times have we done that?

"You have to admire the focus we have shown this season. We are resilient and the consistency has been good. Like all the previous teams, they never give in."

Form

United have lost twice in their last six matches, suffering FA Cup heartbreak at the hands of Chelsea and surrendering local bragging rights to rivals City after losing the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Four points on the road in the last two games, including the victory at Sunderland and late draw at West Ham have put the champions elect within touching distance of the title.

Villa were helpless to prevent their relegation rivals from picking up precious points at the weekend, but a recent upsurge in form will give Lambert's men a timely boost. They have only lost once in their last five games, at home to Liverpool, and have picked up maximum points from their two travels at relegation rivals Reading and Stoke.

Head-to-head battles

  • Robin van Persie v Brad Guzan

    Can the United striker find his scoring touch to beat the in-form 'keeper?

  • Nemanja Vidic v Christian Benteke

    An intriguing clash between a no-nonsense defender and a powerful striker

  • Antonio Valencia v Joe Bennett

    Winger finding form will look to test young Villa left-back

Team news

United winger Ashley Young will miss the visit of his former club having been ruled out of the rest of the season with an ankle injury. Paul Scholes has also been ruled out with a knee injury.

Lambert will be sweating over the fitness of Gabriel Agbonlahor, who scored at Old Trafford in 2009 to give Villa a rare victory. The striker continues to recover from a thigh injury.

Chris Herd and Marc Albrighton will both miss out through ankle injuries, while Gary Gardner (knee) and Richard Dunne (thigh) will also sit out the game.

Key battle

Ferguson has ensured that there will be "no slacking" from his team and United will be desperate to clinch the title in front of their own fans.

That said, the Villa defence will be in for a busy night with the likes of Robin van Persie recently finding his scoring touch again. Antonio Valencia side-footed United's first equaliser in their 2-2 draw at Upton Park on Wednesday and Villa will need to neutralise the threat of the home side's wing play if they are gain the points in Manchester.

Michael Carrick has been in fine form this season and recently scored against Stoke © Getty Images
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One to watch

Michael Carrick's recent nomination for the PFA Player of the Year award is no fluke. Carrick has enjoyed a fantastic season at the helm of the United midfield. His form this campaign has been integral to his England recall by Roy Hodgson, and Ferguson has also praised his midfielder as having his "best ever season" at United.

Carrick is exactly the personality that Ferguson can rely on to take firm control on the Old Trafford pitch. As United push for the Premier League title, Carrick possesses the creative boot to start an attack, plus the maturity and experience needed to cope with any Villa pressure.

Prediction and bet

Villa have only achieved one league victory in the last 34 meetings with Manchester United. While Lambert's young lions will be inspired in their bid to achieve Premier League safety, the impetus lies firmly with United in the push for title glory.

The betting markets reflect this; United are priced odds-on with bet365 while Villa are a huge 14/1 to cause an upset in Manchester.

United to win 3-1 is priced at 9/1 and Michael Carrick to score anytime is an inviting proposition at 5/1.

Final score: 3-1

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