Manchester United meet Aston Villa on Thursday evening at Villa Park in a clash that is vital for both clubs.
United are riding a 16-game unbeaten streak having come from nowhere earlier in the season to put themselves firmly in the hunt for Champions League football. The Red Devils currently lie in fifth position, four points of Leicester City.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa are knee-deep in a own battle of their own at the other end of the table as they desperately look to claw back the four-point deficit that will pull them out of the relegation zone.
While both clubs have a fight on their hands on the pitch, it is expected that they will come face-to-face off the pitch in a race for Jack Grealish’s signature.
The Villa captain is expected to leave the club once the current season finishes and speculation is mounting that Man United are favourites to land the 24-year-old.
While many view the potential move as one that is good for all parties concerned, some have other ideas. Earlier this week, Graeme Souness raised questions over Grealish’s ability to mix it at the top-level claiming he could become a “passenger” at an elite club.
Another former Aston Villa captain has weighed in on Souness’s comments claiming the former Liverpool’s captains remarks come from a place of bitterness.
Stiliyan Petrov believes that certain elements of Grealish’s game will only improve once he moves to a bigger club.
“Everybody has a view or an opinion about certain players. I have a completely different view of Jack,” Petrov told Stats Perform News.
“I believe he has enormous potential to be a great player. At the moment, Jack believes that everything depends on him. He tries to do everything on his own. He tries to create, he tries to assist, he wants to score. So literally he tries to do everything.
“If Jack moves to a bigger team, there will be certain elements of his game that are going to improve. Jack has everything to be a top player. At the moment, with the current situation at Aston Villa, he is the one everyone looks up to. He wants to be everything for Aston Villa, which is great.
“We forget he’s only 24. I don’t agree. Yeah, he holds the ball longer because he has to, he needs to do it, and he knows that. But if he moves on to play with better players he knows how to play, he knows how to adapt. Good players do that and he’s certainly a good player.
“So I wouldn’t really agree with what Graeme is saying. I think sometimes it can be a little bit bitterness, could be a challenge from Souness – he may believe that he’s a good player and he’s challenging him with what he’s saying.
“I can see his point of view is very different to what I think. I believe Jack would be a big asset for a big club.”
Meanwhile, former Villa manager Tim Sherwood, who last week claimed Grealish’s transfer to Man United was a done deal, feels the 24-year old is a special player.
Sherwood is a fervent supporter of Grealish and believes he is exactly what Man United need going forward.
“Only certain people can play for United and I have no doubt Jack Grealish is one of them,” Sherwood told the Daily Mirror.
“He has a special Man United swagger about him – he is what they need. They have found Fernandes, he has knitted players together and the whole team looks better.
“Matic now looks like the player who won two Premier Leagues, Pogba has come to life and if or when they introduce Jack Grealish, you are talking about another player who is special.
“They have Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Dan James and Anthony Martial’s pace, but Jack can take the ball in tight areas to give them something different.
“When teams sit back against United, that is when they struggle but it’s when Jack is at his best. He finds the combination to unlock the door.”
With regards to Sherwood’s earlier claims that a deal between Man United and Aston Villa is already done, Grealish’s agent confirmed on Thursday that no deal has been complete but that he would love to see his client playing Champions League football next season.
“Absolutely no deal has been done with anybody,” Jonathon Barnett told Stretty News.
“On the other hand, I think as far as his career is concerned, it would be great for him to play in the Champions League and develop his great skills and I’m not sure in which country or where that will be.
“But that conversation won’t happen now because all he wants to do is fight and help Aston Villa.”
With United desperately seeking Champions League football and Aston Villa desperately seeking survival, Thursday night presents a unique challenge for one of Britain’s most talked about footballer and one that from the outset looks very much like a double-edged sword.