Manchester United take on an Aston Villa side tonight who are scrapping for their lives, captained by a player who is desperate to impress Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the powers-that-be at Old Trafford, Jack Grealish.
The 24-year-old has been the subject of intense speculation linking him with a move to United. Villa are reported to have slapped an £80 million asking price on their captain but this smacks of bravado from a club who were already in considerable financial difficulty before lockdown.
Reports suggest that Villa might be able to hold off for a circa £60 million deal if they manage to avoid the drop but if they are relegated then they will almost certainly have to cut their losses and the price could drop drastically.
If United win the game it will leave Villa four points adrift of Watford and West Ham, with an inferior goal difference and with only four games left to play, so in that sense, by winning United could be helping themselves to reduce the fee they have to pay for the winger if they indeed decide to buy him.
Grealish on the other hand will want to give United every reason to buy him and also save his current club from relegation, even if in so doing he puts a dent in the Champions League hopes of the side he is hoping to join.
He is a player who is at his best when drifting across the width of the pitch just behind the front line although he operates principally from the left wing – from where he scored a fantastic curler for Villa in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in the corresponding fixture in December.
It was a goal and all-round performance that reportedly impressed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer so much that he decided to target him for a transfer. It has also made the Norwegian all too aware that United must do a better job of containing him today.
‘Well I think in the last game obviously they caused us some problems, both Grealish off the left and El Ghazi off the right,’ the boss said at the pre-match press conference.
‘He caused us problems, he scored a fantastic goal, so there’s been lots said and talked about him and we need to be aware of him.
‘Whoever is close to him, if he’s off the left, or he’s in the middle, on the right, what he does is attract players to him and creates space for others.’
The stakes are high for both clubs and for Grealish in particular. As second interviews go, this will be a very high pressure one for the Birmingham-born man.
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