Manchester United v Villarreal: match preview

With 10 points from six matches, the gulf between Manchester United and Villarreal is considerable, but Can-two players be found who can unsettle Jose Mourinho’s team?

A draw against Birmingham in October 2009 resulted in José Mourinho’s side securing promotion to the Premier League, but a 3-0 win in February 2010 put him back in touch with the relegation zone and paved the way for a direct route back to the top flight.

It could be a similar story this evening, with 13th-placed Villarreal hoping to get two points from this fixture and, having done so under Aitor Karanka two seasons ago, Wenger’s men have already inflicted Mourinho’s only loss since the Frenchman took charge.

From the archives: Hugh Stacey’s 2005 coverage of Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Villarreal Read more

The margin of defeat against Bayern Munich last week hasn’t been lost on the Manchester United manager, who’s talked of the impact this fixture could have on Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Juventus.

“[The example of Villarreal] was so important,” Mourinho said. “We can’t be thinking about Tuesday, we have to think about today. We go to a difficult match with respect, after losing against Bayern Munich.

“Every team is a very difficult team. If you want to play a top team then you have to play against every single team. For me, Villarreal is the best example of that. They played against Bayern Munich and were very close to winning.

“The result would have been 1-1. It will make us a little bit proud of ourselves, it will not make us a big rival. But it will make us a team that has to be respected.”

With the United manager’s team starting the day two points off the top of the Premier League, he’s still clutching at straws with the faint hope of a silver lining. They’ve lost just two of their last 10 matches in all competitions, including three in all competitions since 3 September. And a much tougher fixture than the one that awaits them at Old Trafford beckons the following night.

Steve McClaren (@SteveMcClaren) In bits with 3 a side again!! What a game👊⚽️ #MUFC https://t.co/0wqd7LhgMJ

For Villarreal, this fixture will offer them another opportunity to chip away at a nine-point gap – the Super Cup winners have taken four points from their last two matches to climb away from relegation trouble. Having secured their European place in the final few weeks of last season, goals from Jose Gimenez and Jorge Molina secured a win over Sevilla and two goals from Vicente Iborra beat Sporting.

Should they succeed in knocking United out of the competition, they will be a major step closer to their second European campaign in three seasons, but a simple defeat at the El Madrigal will not be enough to put any pressure on Liverpool, Spurs or anyone else in the Champions League for the first time since 1995.

Match Preview

Prediction

United to win 2-0

Sunshine and a good performance from Chris Smalling will not win the game, Wayne Rooney’s head injury will certainly not be enough to warrant another suspension, and there’s little to make the face of Jamie Vardy or Romelu Lukaku sufficiently smile. For once the Real Madrid comparisons are somewhat unfair, but I suspect a win for United would be welcome.

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