Statistical Preview: Aston Villa vs Manchester United

Aston Villa’s solid start to the campaign sees them sitting in 11th in the table, 8 points away from the top 6, but more importantly, 6 points clear of the relegation zone.

It must be pleasing for Aston Villa fans seeing one of their academy graduates coming through and making his mark on the first team, and Ciaran Clark has certainly been impressive for the Villains since making his debut 4 years ago. Clark has become a mainstay of the Villa back four and looking at his performance on Saturday, it isn’t hard to see why he has become such a stalwart. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he made 17 clearances against Fulham – the second most in the league.

Fellow centre half Chris Herd also performed admirably in his first appearance for Aston Villa for 11 months. The Australian has had problems with injury and poor form, but he slotted in with ease against Fulham, making a total of 22 defensive contributions (based on blocks, interceptions, clearances and tackles won). This was the fourth most in the league.

A contentious decision made by Paul Lambert when taking the Villa job was to drop Shay Given for Brad Guzan, but the American has fully justified his manager’s faith in him. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates that he has made 47 saves this term – the sixth most in the league.

Former skipper Stiliyan Petrov praised Ashley Westwood this week for his ability to do the dirty work for Paul Lambert’s men, and the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index fully supports the Bulgarian’s claims. Westwood has won an impressive 74% of his challenges this term. Westwood is 37/1 with to score the first goal on Sunday.

Phil Jones’ volley handed Manchester United all three points against Shakhtar Donetsk to ensure that they topped their Champions League group.

Manager Moyes brought Wilfred Zaha on against Newcastle in an attempt to add some pace and width to the Manchester United attack and change their fortunes in front of goal. Interestingly though, the England U21 international made more of a defensive impact than an offensive one, as he won 5 challenges. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, this was more than any other Manchester United player. Zaha is 10/1 with to score the first goal on Sunday.

Another substitution that Moyes made in an attempt to change the game was bringing on Brazilian Anderson and following his introduction he made a positive contribution with his passing. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates that he completed a pass in Newcastle’s half at an impressive rate of a pass every 2.6 minutes.

The Red Devils are certainly feeling the absence of central midfielder Michael Carrick. The England international has an excellent ability to shield the back four, with his intercepting attributes a key part of this. So far this campaign, Carrick has made a total of 42 interceptions, which is the most in the United squad.

Robbie Savage has claimed that Moyes should look to build his defence around youngster Phil Jones as he has both the talent and the time to turn into a world class centre half. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index fully supports Savage’s claims as it shows that he has made 111 defensive contributions (based on tackles won, blocks, interceptions and clearances). This is the third most in the United squad, with role model Nemanja Vidic sitting ahead of the 21-year old