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villa scalp vital Why Man United must stand up and fight back to save their season

Some of the big names will be out of the club before Rangnick.

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 Ralf Rangnick, Manager of Manchester United reacts following the Premier League match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Ralf Rangnick, Manager of Manchester United reacts following the Premier League match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Ralf Rangnick, Manager of Manchester United reacts following the Premier League match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

We get a third helping of the match I hate most in the English season on Monday night – Manchester United against Aston Villa, the two clubs with whom I played the bulk of my career.

This one is in the FA Cup third round at Old Trafford and neither team can take it lightly.

There has to be a backlash from United’s players to the performance and result against Wolves last Monday.

A team can lose a football match in many ways.

The other team can just play better, they can score a wonder-goal or the opposing manager can just out-scheme and out-think your manager tactically.

What is never acceptable is that a team should lose a match because they don’t do the basics of running, tackling and covering for each other.

And that’s what happened a week ago. You could see it on the pitch and hear it in the voices of the commentators – “if Wolves believe in themselves they can go on and win this game.”

Which they did thanks to a fine Joao Moutinho strike.

But the other side of that is the inference that United were not putting in a shift.

Yet again there was too much hand-waving and asking questions by players in the famous Red shirt.

There ought to have been sweat expended instead.

It’s the simplest and most basic part of the game, to give a 100 percent effort, and it is where United have been falling down of late.

And, as I’ve written previously, the players must not be fooled because Ralf Rangnick is not going to be the permanent gaffer.

Maybe he won’t, but the veteran German is going to be with United at least until the summer of 2024 as a sporting director.

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If some of United’s better-known players keep playing as they are now, they will be out of the club long before Rangnick is.

As for the Villa, well news of the arrival of midfielder-cum-striker Phillippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona, with an option to buy him in the summer, could turn out to be a huge boost.

I write ‘could’, because what player are Aston Villa getting?

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Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard has been reunited with old Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho

Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard has been reunited with old Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho

Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard has been reunited with old Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho

The one who was one of the best footballers in the world at Liverpool in 2016 and 2017, when current Villa manager Steven Gerrard was a team-mate.

Or the one who has been getting a game here, a game there, for Barcelona and Bayern Munich for the last four years.

I’m sure many players must have joined Barca over the last 15 years for the chance to play with Lionel Messi.

But things don’t always work in straight lines.

Some footballers, even great ones, can find themselves overawed and unsure when sharing a shirt with such a gifted player.

Others have egos and wonder why ALL the attention is on the little Argentinian maestro.

I don’t know which camp Coutinho was in, but he was not a big or effective player at the Nou Camp.

Aston Villa want the previous guy, they want their manager to find the spark that made Coutinho the ruler of Anfield.

And he was the King of the Kop before the club decided to cash in and sell to the Catalans – using the money to sign centre-back Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson.

There’s something else. Maybe it was that element of being discarded that set Coutinho back.

Players in their prime, as the Brazilian was then at the age of 25, don’t like being told ‘you can leave’ when they are the star of the show and Coutinho knew well, on arriving at the Nou Camp, that he was never going to be the star of the show there.

Villa have played well in matches this season and not got the results they deserved.

And they will want to stay in the FA Cup – otherwise their season may just peter out. Yet I can’t see anything else other than a home win for United tomorrow night.

There has to be a kick in United and they too will want to stay in the 2022 FA Cup.

There’s no element of ‘oh, we’ve bigger fish to fry’ this season. United need to be challenging for every trophy they can.

Yet they are unlikely to win the Champions League, so this may be their only shot at silverware.

That thought alone ought to fire up Manchester United’s players into putting in a big effort.

And that I fear will be too much for the Claret and Blue to handle.

I’m going with Manchester United here.

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