table last season, his first in charge, after the Midlands outfit had flirted with relegation. The Scot has put his faith in several young players, and has not been afraid to omit and subsequently loan out more high-profile stars like Darren Bent and Stephen Ireland.
Last meeting: United clinched league title no.20 thanks to Robin van Persie’s hat-trick inside 33 minutes when Villa visited Old Trafford on 22 April. The Dutchman's second strike was voted Goal of the Season.
Sub-plot: Villa Park has been a happy hunting ground in recent years for the Reds since the last defeat in the Premier League there, in August 1995. United have drawn just three and won the rest of the 17 subsequent visits in the league.
Did you know? Wayne Rooney has scored 11 goals against Villa – nine in the Premier League – since moving to Old Trafford in 2004. He missed the Reds' last league outing via suspension but is available again for Sunday's clash.
Star-man: Striker Christian Benteke has not scored since he grabbed his fifth goal of the season on 14 September, against Newcastle. However, the Belgium international settled in well after his arrival last season, finishing with 23 goals in all competitions, and is likely to pose a threat to the Reds defence.
Quote/unquote: “Paul Lambert introduced an awful lot of young players in his first year or so and so it was always a hard task for him. They can make mistakes at times, but he's got through the worst of that and it was a brave decision at a big club with big traditions.” –