Monday 18th November 2019 @ 8pm

Villa Park

Live on Sky Sports Main Event

After yet another International break, match-weekend 13 is nearly upon us. United however, will have to wait until Monday evening to kick a ball in anger, as we face a trip down to the West Midlands to see our old pals, Aston Vile.

God, I loathe the Monday night SKY slot. It’s a completely rubbish time for footy. Also, apart from one victory versus another set of claret & blues, it’s fair to say we don’t fair well on these tortuous away TV picks. I’ve been to this fixture on a few Saturdays, but you’re a better man (or woman) than me if you’re taking time off graft etc for a near 400 mile round trip to be at this one.

Talking of immense dislike, I (like most of you) can’t bear our opponents. Well, their supporters, anyway. We navigated the thick end of a century barely noticing each other. Then, on one fateful sunny ‘Survival Sunday,’ with the nefarious Keys & Gray barely able to contain their excitement, the Villans (to a man) strangely gloried in our demise. Post match, a decent number set about our fans, young & old in the shitty streets surrounding their dull stadium.

I recall seeing a SKY TV interview with the grinning idiot who spent hours creating the infamous ‘Sob on the Tyne’ bed sheet masterpiece, prior to one of our Championship meetings. This massive virgin reckoned we should get over ourselves and put it all down to ‘bantz’. What a prick. A grudge was born that day, and that’s something we’re pretty good at nurturing.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Veeeela have managed to get themselves back in the ‘big time,’ their Brummie manager, Dean Smith succeeding where our current Head Coach failed. They made a half decent start, but like many promoted sides, have faltered as the Autumn leaves began to tumble.

Having narrowly dispatched Brighton, with a late winner at home on the 20th October, they’ve then lost the next three to Man City, Liverpool & Wolves. Tough fixtures all, but the Premiership is an unforgiving place, where disparity is rife.

Their Brazilian record signing striker, Wesley (whom Rafa really wanted, but wasn’t allowed to sign by the football genius who used to employ him) looks lively and midfielder, Mcginn has been interesting the Fantasy Football fraternity. However, it’s the boy band-esque, Peaky Blinder local lad & skipper, Jack Grealish who seems to make them tick.

Spurs nearly signed him for £40M in 2018, and you can now see why they were willing to part with so much wedge for him. He’s a mobile, graceful player with an eye for both assists and goals. He’s been fettled with a calf injury recently but looks like he’s winning his battle to regain full fitness. We could’ve done with him sitting out another week, as he’s a handful – and clearly, somewhat of a talisman for them too.

The Mighty Magpies arrive in Brum with much the better recent form. Our last three outings have amassed a healthy looking seven points and there’s even some crazy talk of ‘corners’ being turned. This is the boom/bust world of NUFC in full effect. After we gained one of those seven at home to Wolves, we were all in shock at the ineptitude we’d just witnessed.

I hesitate to mention solidity, but we are looking more robust these days. The lads at the back have been our season saver, thus far. There are many days gone by when losing Jamaal would’ve been a nightmare. However, it’ll just mean a shuffling of the pack come Monday. We’ll also be able to call on the services of the elder Longstaff. Whether he gets a start is up to Bruce, but I’m made up he’s back.

With home advantage, Villa are slight favourites. Whilst I think it’ll be a tricky night down there, I reckon we’ll come back with something. Having successfully navigated a couple of ‘must wins’, we find ourselves faced with a ‘musn’t lose.’ I don’t think we will. I’m going for a battling 1-1.

HTL.

Nick Clark

@Clark5Nick