Whether it’s putting seven past champions Liverpool or a whitewash victory at the Emirates, Dean Smith has got Aston Villa dreaming after a relegation battle last season. Villa currently sit in the top 6 having played two fewer games than most of the Premier League going into the new year.
Manchester United host the Villans on New Year’s day and it will be no easy feat for the Red’s. A big contributor to Villa’s outstanding form this season is their individual talent and like any side in world football, where there are in-form players, transfer links to Old Trafford soon follow.
So as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prepares his men to kick start the new year with a win, here are four players he’ll be looking out for not only as dangerous opponents but possible transfer targets:
1. Jack Grealish (LW/AM/RW)Embed from Getty Images
Jack Grealish is probably the most obvious man to keep an eye on. The 25-year-old has once again proved how much of a talismanic figure he is for his boyhood club. He’s even managed to transfer his outstanding ability to the England camp, as the midfielder was given his long-anticipated first England cap in September.
Grealish has been linked with a move to Old Trafford for almost a year now with the Englishman reportedly not opposed to relocating to Manchester. While many waited for the transfer in the summer, a move did not transpire. The Villa Captain signed a new five-year deal in September meaning that Grealish and United may end up being two ships passing in the night.Embed from Getty Images
However, as stated previously, perform well and the rumours will not be too far away. And to say Grealish has “performed well” is an understatement in itself. In 14 appearances in the league, this season the midfielder has scored five and assisted eight. While those are impressive numbers, Grealish’s statistics really catch the eye when it comes to chance creation. With 10 big chances created in the league this season, he’s tied with United’s chief catalyst Bruno Fernandes.
It’ll be impossible not to spot Grealish, with his trademark low socks and super human calves. He’ll play in attacking midfield drifting into that left channel as he does so effectively. Solaskjaer will definitly be wary of his presence.
2. John Mcginn (DM/CM)Embed from Getty Images
Villa’s hard Scotsman has caught the eye of many this season. John Mcginn is a vital cog in Dean Smith’s machine this season after a positive start to last season was halted due to injury.
Mcginn is another that who’s name has been bandied about in relation to a move to United. His quality has also been rumoured to be cosigned by Sir Alex Ferguson, who’s apparently told Solskjaer to look at the midfielder in the past. Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant, what’s factual is Mcginn’s robust attitude to the game which is complemented by his hammer-like left foot.
The 26-year-old’s strengths lie in his passing range and ability to cover great distances during games. Ginny’s energy in the Villa engine room has played a big part in the club’s success this season. His role in the team is not that dissimilar to that of Fred in United’s midfield, aksed with winning the ball back quickly and aggressively.
Mcginn’s play style may not be the most attractive on the eye, but if United want to bolster in defensive midfield he would be a more than viable option.
3. Tyrone Mings (CB)Embed from Getty Images
Tyrone Mings will return to selection this weekend following a one-game suspension picked up vs Crystal Palace. His double yellow card against Palace sums him up, an imposing and aggressive player. United saw this side to Mings’ game in 2017 during his match long tussle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, where the centre-back, then a Bournemouth player, stepped on the big Swede’s head. He clearly doesn’t fear death.
Mings’ links to United have been tentative in the past, but with United still in search for a specialist left-footed centre-half don’t write off further stories developing in the near future. A side to Mings’ game which is underrated due to his lofty frame is his technical ability. The centre-back is able to progress the ball confidently with a decent passing range, and while not blisteringly rapid, Mings’ positional play allows him to make things difficult for his opposing striker. His ability on the ball has put him well within England Manager Gareth Southgate’s plans.Embed from Getty Images
Tyrone Mings has contributed greatly to Villa’s strong defensive showing this season which has yielded the most clean sheets in the league this season with eight. The England international stands at 6″4 so his aerial ability speaks for itself, he’ll be one to watch closely as last season his goal following a set piece earned Villa a draw.
4. Anwar El ghaziEmbed from Getty Images
Six years ago Anwar El Ghazi was a wonderkid at Ajax, and his name was known for being a tricky young winger, destined to be one of the top players in European football. Now he’s 25 and finds himself at Aston Villa.
Although his career hasn’t hit the heights of what many thought he’d achieve but things are looking up for El Ghazi this season. The Dutchman has enjoyed a festive period full of gifts scoring five in December alone.
The winger may not be someone United ever consider as an option but his form going into the fixture on New Year’s day means he’s one to watch.