Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith is wary of Manchester United’s “main man” Bruno Fernandes as the two sides prepare to go head to head at Villa Park on Thursday night.
Villa have failed to win any of their five matches since the Premier League resumed and Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool saw them stay in the relegation zone with just five games remaining.
Up next is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rampant United team on Thursday evening – live on Sky Sports – who are fresh from beating Bournemouth 5-2 to stretch their unbeaten run to 16 games in all competitions.
July 9, 2020, 8:00pm
United’s front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have scored a combined 55 goals between them this season, while Portugal midfielder Fernandes has been a revelation since joining the club in January.
Asked about the prospect of facing United’s in-form forwards, Smith said: “It’s a tough task but no tougher than going to Anfield and playing against Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino – three of the best strikers and now champions.
“Now we’ve got to do the same against a team who are full of confidence and the main man to watch is Fernandes who’s been outstanding for them.”
Villa haven’t beaten United at home in the league since a 1-0 win in August 1995, but Smith feels his players can go into the match with confidence.
“Hopefully this will be the first [league win since 1995],” he chuckled. “United are a very good team, we know that.
“They’ve improved, and as I said Fernandes is playing very well. They’ve got pace and power up front as well but they conceded a couple of goals against Bournemouth at the weekend and Bournemouth took the lead.
“There’s a lot of heart we can take certainly from our performance against Liverpool and we’re going to need that sort of performance again, but we need to be better in the final third and take our chances when they come.”
Villa sit 18th in the table and are four points from safety in what is gearing up to be a tight and dramatic relegation battle.
Despite being without a win in 10 games in all competitions, Smith still believes “one big result” could turn things for his team.
“We don’t see it as a long time without a win because we’ve just played five games,” Smith said. “We knew this was like a new season, we can’t be looking at form from four months ago.
“I know statisticians will do that but the belief is there because the players know that they have played well enough to win games.
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