Premier League Preview: Manchester United v Aston Villa

Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s 2nd placed Manchester United face Aston Villa on New Year’s Day and may have their work cut out if they are to keep up with league leaders Liverpool.

The Red Devil’s have steadily worked their way up the Premier League table in recent weeks and will be looking to continue their good run of form against a Villa side who are unbeaten in their last 5 games.

United haven’t tasted defeat since Arsenal visited Old Trafford on November 1st but Dean Smith’s Villains will be no walk in the park.

Villa come into the game off the back of a Jack Grealish inspired 1 all draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge that manager Dean Smith said showed his teams great character.

This ones bound to be a cracker and takes place on New Years Day at 8pm.

West Ham ride luck in 2-1 win vs Aston Villa

The Hammers have made their best start to a season since they moved to the London Stadium four years ago but won’t have many fond memories from this lacklustre display other than the three points they take from the match.

A missed penalty from Ollie Watkins and a disallowed goal courtesy of VAR could easily have swung the result the other way but as it stands two goals, early in each half, was enough to seal the win for David Moyes.

West Ham started well with a goal inside the first two minutes of the game when Ogbonna headed home from a Jared Bowen corner after Tomas Soucek’s early shot was deflected wide.

Villa slowly grew into the game with Ezri Konsa heading over and Conor Hourihane tested Lucas Fabianski with a tasty free-kick before Jack Grealish levelled things up on 25mins with a deflected shot from 20 yards.

With West Ham offering little in the half outside of the goal, David Moyes rang the changes at half time hooking the returning Michael Antonio and Arthur Masuaku in favour of Sebastian Haller and Said Benrahma – the latter of which set up what turned out to be the winning goal within 30 seconds of the restart – swinging in a pinpoint cross with his right foot that was met by the head of Jared Bowen to net.

Aston Villa responded with Ollie Watkins laying a guilt edge opportunity on a plate for Trezeguet who somehow found Lucas Fabianski’s outstretched arm when it would have been easier to score.
Watkins then had the opportunity to score himself after Declan Rice was adjudged to have fouled Trezeguet in the box for the slightest pull on the Egyptians shirt but instead, Watkins missed the resuting penalty kick, striking the crossbar high to the keepers right.

The summer signing from Brentford thought he had rescued a point for the Midlands outfit in stoppage time as he tapped home Matt Targett’s cross but the VAR officials thought otherwise judging the striker to be marginally offside and handing West Ham a third straight win that takes them above Manchester City, Manchester United, Wolves and Southampton in the table.

Aston Villa get Cash

Manager Dean Smith was able to convince Cash to sign a five-year deal at Villa Park, spurning the advances of a clutch of rival Premier League clubs.

The 23-year-old made 141 appearances across six years at Forest, and is the latest City Ground product to secure a top-flight move.

“We are delighted to welcome Matty to Villa and believe we have secured one of England’s brightest young prospects,” said Villa boss Smith.

“He has an excellent playing record for a young player and we believe he will settle in easily and continue his rapid development into a top full-back.”

Cash confirmed he had signed a five-year deal at Villa Park, revealing his delight to make the top-flight step up.

“Absolutely buzzing to have signed a five-year deal at Aston Villa,” he tweeted.

“Something I’ve always dreamed of since I was a young boy to play in the Premier League, it really is a dream come true.”

The Slough-born defender admitted he had jumped at the chance to join Villa, as soon as he heard of the club’s interest.

“My agent rang me and said that Villa were interested, and immediately it was the place I wanted to come to,” said Cash.

“I said ‘don’t even worry about anywhere else, I want to come here and play’.

“It’s been a crazy journey from the age of 17, getting released at Wycombe Wanderers to kicking on.

“I had a very good five years at Forest and I can’t thank them enough – they were very good to me.

“Signing for Villa is a huge moment, and I want to thank everyone who’s supported me through this process.

“I’m coming off a good season and I’m ready to take that into the Premier League with Villa.”

Conor Hourihane set for shock Aston Villa exit claim reports

Turkish media claim that the Republic of Ireland international’s agent has been in talks with Super Lig sides Besiktas and Trabzonspor over a potential switch.

Hourihane is set to begin his fifth season at Villa Park, having featured 34 times under Dean Smith last season as the club scrambled to Premier League safety.

Former Chelsea player Eddie Newton is the new Trabzonspor head coach and will no doubt have been aware of the 29-year-old’s influence – perhaps even more so considering Hourihane is out of contract next summer.

Reports claim the player is open to the move, but Turkish media have been known to be unreliable in the past.

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith hoping for smoother sailing this season

Villa spent close to £150m on players last summer, only to find themselves in a relegation battle for a large chunk of the season and eventually staying afloat in the top flight by just a single point.

The poor transfer strategy cost Sporting Director Jesus Garcia Pitarch his job at the club, and he has since been replaced by former FC Copenhagen Director of Football Johan Lange at Villa Park.

Manager Dean Smith revealed he has been in dialogue with Lange regarding signings.
When asked by club media about potential incomings this summer, Smith said:

“Wheels are in motion, that was the reason I stopped back, to sit down with Johan and strategically plan what we are going to do.

“Nobody is satisfied with finishing 17th in the league – owners, supporters, players and coaching staff. So we need to improve the squad. We improved after the lockdown and Project Restart and we need to improve again because we don’t want a season of struggles.”

Villa look to Portugal for talented winger

Reports coming out of Portugal are linking the Villa to Benfica Left Winger Franco Cervi, who could be a potential replacement for Jack Grealish.

The 26 year old has been a regular name on the team sheet and in his four years at Benfica, he has clocked up 151 appearances.

Having recently announced several signings including Jan Vertongen, they are looking to generate some funds and also lower their wage bill.

There’s also interest from several Turkish clubs but the main stumbling block could be his exit cause which is in the region of £54 million.

Elsewhere, the Express and Star report that the club have had discussions which make them confident of keeping midfielder Douglas Luiz at Villa Park after the Brazilian was linked with a return to Manchester City.

Marvelous Nakamba linked to Aston Villa exit

Turkish news outlet Fotomac claim that Nakamba, who signed for Aston Villa from Club Brugge last summer for €12m, is interesting Super Lig side Trabzonspor.

The 26-year-old Zimbabwean has played just 22 Premier League games for Aston Villa.

Trabzonspor have recently appointed former Chelsea man Eddie Newton as their new head coach, and his first move in the transfer market could be to secure a season-long loan move for Nakamba.

Trabzonspor finished as runners up in the 2019/20 Turkish top flight.

Aston Villa hire new Sporting Director

40-year-old Lange had been the technical director at FC Copenhagen in his homeland of Denmark for the last six years, and in his new role at Villa Park he will report directly to the Aston Villa board.

Jesus Garcia Pitarch left the post on Monday having been appointed in 2018 – the same day that Dean Smith took up his role as head coach.

Last summer, Villa spent more than £120m on players – but Smith’s side only just stayed up, with a final day draw at West Ham securing 17th place.

Aston Villa sack Sporting Director over poor player recruitment

Just a day after Villa had secured Premier League survival by virtue of a 1-1 draw with West Ham, the club moved to dismiss Pitarch, who oversaw £140m of spending on players last summer.

It’s understood that the powers that be at Aston Villa are unhappy with the player recruitment this season, but are happy with manager Dean Smith – reports claim that he would have stayed at Villa Park regardless of whether the club were relegated to the Championship.

Smith is allegedly responsible for the capture of Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings, but several underperforming signings such as Wesley, Marvelous Nakamba and Mbwana Samatta were all on the Sporting Director’s watch.

Whoever the club bring in to replace the outgoing Jesus Gracia Pitarch will have a job on their hands, with their first task the unenviable challenge of keeping hold of star player and talisman Jack Grealish.