Manchester United could draw closer to a top four position on the Premier League table if they can clinch a much-needed win over Aston Villa in Birmingham on Saturday.
It will be a coincidental rematch against Villa after the Red Devils clinched an unconvincing 1-0 win in the FA Cup on Monday, but United will be looking for a far more convincing result this time around.
As it stands in the league, United lie seventh, but are still just four log points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who face Tottenham Hotspur in the final fixture of the weekend on Sunday.
The headline fixture of this round will undoubtedly be the blockbuster clash between Manchester City and Chelsea earlier on Saturday, but plenty of attention will then shift to Man United’s away trip to Villa Park.
It’s been a challenging start to the reign of interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who doesn’t seem to have quite brought the best out of the players at his disposal at the start of his tenure.
There are numerous reasons for this, but the fact of the matter is that Manchester United’s dressing room culture has come under the spotlight amid recent struggles, particularly after a shock loss to Wolves.
United have used four different formations in the last two games, but the same problems around synergy have continued to linger. However, it was notable that Rangnick reverted to a more customary 4-2-3-1 formation for the Red Devils as they overcame Villa on Monday.
For the second match running, Rangnick also changed formation in the second-half, switching to a midfield diamond with the introduction of Donny van de Beek.
“The game against Villa today confirmed, with a minimum three central midfielders, we had problems in times of the game to control the centre of the pitch,” Rangnick explained. “From the very moment when we changed to a diamond in the last 20 minutes, when Donny came on, from then on we controlled the game, we had our counter-attack situations.”
As they head into another battle with Villa, it’s a key moment in the season for United to start rebuilding some momentum, with Harry Maguire and Phil Jones also set to return from injury for this clash.
United’s pool of available centre-backs will double from two to four, meaning a formation switch is a possibility again, and it should add to the intrigue of an important battle against 14th-placed Villa.