A miserable run of form has finally seen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer relieved of the wheel, but while Man Utd are languishing down in eighth place domestically, they’re actually at the top of their Champions League group and a win here would secure progression into the knockout rounds.
Michael Carrick has been placed in temporary charge and with performances of late being so dreadful, it’s hard not to see a reaction of some kind in this fixture.
Man Utd are a desperately poor W4-D2-L7 since mid-September and the most alarming aspect of their performances has been a lack of clean sheets.
They’ve registered a pathetic two shutouts from 25 appearances since late April, with those coming early in the season against Wolves and more recently in Nuno Espirito Santo’s final game in charge of Tottenham.
In fact, the Red Devils have conceded at least twice in six of their past seven outings, including painful defeats to Leicester (4-2), Liverpool (5-0) and Watford (4-1).
Harry Maguire was sent off at the weekend in the last of those results but will be available here, though main partner Raphael Varane remains sidelined with injury.
The French international last played the full 90 minutes in the 3-0 win over Tottenham, and was a notable absence in each of those heavy defeats.
Neither Eric Bailly nor Victor Lindelof have been consistent in their performances when paired with the underperforming Maguire, so it’s difficult to imagine a complete change of fortunes at the back.
Luke Shaw is also expected to miss out here after a head injury last time out, so Alex Telles should deputise at left-back, while Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood are also unavailable at present.
The likes of Jadon Sancho, Donny van De Beek, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford will be hoping to get some minutes with a change in the dugout and numerous absentees, though it would be a major shock if Portuguese duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes were displaced in the line-up.
Villarreal haven’t exactly been at their best this term either and are W5-D9-L4 in all competitions this season over 90 minutes.
Although they have drawn games with the likes of Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup final, both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid domestically, as well as Atalanta in this competition, it’s fair to say that their victories haven’t exactly been the most convincing.
Aside from a pair of triumphs over Swiss outfit Young Boys, who prop up the group, two of their other three victories have come against sides currently mired in the relegation zone in La Liga.
Furthermore, their 2-1 defeat to Man Utd in the reverse fixture saw Ronaldo bag a 95th-minute winner, and it would be no surprise to see the hosts deliver another stalemate against quality opposition.
Serge Aurier is ineligible for the hosts, but more importantly star striker Gerard Moreno remains sidelined.
However, given United’s dreadful defensive record over an extended period of time, in addition to the absence of Varane and the poor form exhibited by Maguire, a clean sheet for the visitors would come as a surprise.
In fact, in the Premier League alone, only bottom-two sides Norwich and Newcastle have conceded more goals this season.
VILLARREAL AND MAN UNITED TO DRAW