FOOTBALL NEWS

08/11/2012 17:49, Report by Nick Coppack
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Preview: Villa vs United

Opposition boss: Paul Lambert was in charge at Norwich last year and twice made the Reds work extremely hard for narrow victories. At Villa Park he's endured a tough start, but in his defence he inherited a lot of problems from former regimes. The general consensus among Villa fans is that things will certainly get better if he's given enough time. In fact, one told ManUtd.com: "This is the most optimistic we've been since Martin O'Neill took charge."

Star man: Young Belgian forward Christian Benteke is Villa's top scorer this season (four goals) and has the physique to bully defences. On his day he's a real handful and the Reds will need to mark him tightly at set-pieces. It's imperative United don't give him the sort of space Marouane Fellaini was afforded at Goodison Park earlier this season.

Quote/unquote: Wayne Rooney, speaking after United's win in Braga: "We know we can play better football. Now we have a run of games where we feel we can get maximum points, so hopefully we can do that."

Sub-plots: Winger Ashley Young did himself no favours in Villa fans' eyes by winning a debatable penalty in the last fixture between the two sides. Despite serving the Midlands club well for four seasons, he probably won't be counting on the warmest of receptions on his return this Saturday.

Whistle blower: Leicestershire official Kevin Friend doesn't shy away from dishing out punishment. He's shown five or more cards in exactly half of the fixtures he's refereed this season. He last took charge of United in August, when the Reds beat Fulham 3-2 at Old Trafford.

Rivals watch: United have a great chance to build a lead at the top of the table this weekend (albeit temporarily, perhaps), given Chelsea and Manchester City both play on Sunday. Roberto Mancini's men host Tottenham in a lunchtime kick-off, while Chelsea welcome Liverpool to Stamford Bridge.

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