Wednesday 7 December 2016

Five talking points ahead of Manchester United's trip to Villa Park

Paul Hirst

Published 13/08/2015 | 19:55

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay (centre) celebrate Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker (background, left) scoring an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay (centre) celebrate Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker (background, left) scoring an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester

Aston Villa host Manchester United in the first Premier League clash of the weekend on Friday night. Here are five of the main talking points ahead of the match.

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1) CAN WAYNE ROONEY PROVE HE IS THE RIGHT MAN TO LEAD UNITED'S ATTACK?

Wayne Rooney started last year's draw at Villa Park in midfield, but he will play as a lone front man on Friday night. United manager Louis van Gaal is so convinced Rooney will be able to score 20-30 goals this year that he claims he does not need to sign another striker.

The United skipper scored just one goal in pre-season and looked rusty against Tottenham. Will his season spark into life at Villa Park?

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2) CAN DALEY BLIND SILENCE HIS DOUBTERS?

Blind is primarily a central midfielder, but Van Gaal is convinced his compatriot is good enough to play at centre-half for United. Alan Shearer disagrees, claiming on the eve of the Spurs game that he would love to come up against Blind every week.

The former Ajax man is comfortable on the ball, but lacks strength. Christian Eriksen brushed him off the ball last week. At 6ft 4in tall, Rudy Gestede is a far more imposing figure than the slight Dane, and the Villa striker will target Blind on Friday.

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3) CAN SERGIO ROMERO PROVE HE IS A WORTHY NUMBER ONE?

With David de Gea still unable to focus on his game, according to Van Gaal, Sergio Romero will start in goal for United. The Argentinian performed reasonably well against Spurs, particularly when you consider he had barely been at the club for two weeks before his debut. But the Argentinian was barely tested and his goal will come under a more sustained threat against Villa.

Romero was not good enough to hold down a place at Monaco last year so is he really the answer to United's goalkeeping problems?

4) WILL FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL WORK?

The match has been brought forward a day because of policing reasons, but next year, games will be played on Friday nights every week. Ending the week by going to a top-flight match under lights is a good idea in principle, but is it practical? United fans travelling by train will not arrive back in Manchester until the early hours of Saturday morning.

The last train from Aston to Manchester Piccadilly leaves at 10:32pm and arrives at 01:28 after changes at Birmingham New Street and Crewe. Those who finish work after 5:30pm have no chance of getting to the game on time via train, and those making the 170-mile trip via car will have to leave early as the M6 is notoriously bad for traffic on an evening and roadworks are taking place on junction 17.

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5) CAN TIM SHERWOOD TURN VILLA INTO A TOP-SIX TEAM?

Sherwood was parachuted into the Villa job in February and in his previous job at Tottenham, he was appointed three months into the season. This is the first time he has had a pre-season with a club and he has made his mark, signing nine players, with a 10th not far away in Adama Traore from Barcelona. Sherwood has lost Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke, but this is now his team and his survival depends on whether he can turn them into a consistent and potent force again. The time has come for him to prove whether he really is capable of becoming a successful top-flight manager.

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