Olof Mellberg will play for Aston Villa against Manchester United tomorrow and, having considered the possibility of marking either Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo, he said jokingly: "It might be a good time for me to move into the centre."

Mellberg has been playing as a makeshift right-back this season but the match will provide him with his toughest test since he marked El-Hadji Diouf when playing for Sweden against Senegal in the 2002 World Cup.

United tend to switch wingers during matches, so Mellberg is likely to face both players in what could be described as the challenge from hell.

Worse still for Villa, this match will be the first of three against United in three weeks. They have an FA Cup tie at Old Trafford on January 7 and a Premiership match there on January 13.

But, while Villa have not won for six weeks and have stuttered alarmingly since the optimism of autumn, they are not under pressure when they face the Premiership leaders.

"It is a good thing if you can get results out of these games," Mellberg said. "Even though we need the points and we have got to get our home form going, I don't think there will be any pressure on winning those games against United. If we can get good results there, it will give everyone a lift at home."

Mellberg expects United to hold off Chelsea and win the Premiership title — "United look the strongest this season" — but they lost 1-0 at West Ham last week and are always forced to work hard at Villa Park.

Mellberg has played against United many times for Villa and, during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, faced Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville. He said: "Rooney wasn't 100 per cent fit in the World Cup but now he is doing well. He is a top-class player but we just need to focus on our own game and be on top of our own game to get anything out of the game.

"As for Ronaldo, we will see how it goes. He is a great player and they have got Giggs in that position, as well. It might be a good game for me to maybe move back into the centre of defence.

"Ronaldo has done really well. I didn't follow what happened in the World Cup too much but if you follow his performances, he is a top-class player and he has shown that in previous seasons, as well."

Liam Ridgewell and Gary Cahill have performed well at centre-back in the past few matches, meaning that Mellberg will remain at right-back for some time yet.

It is not his preferred position but he knows that places in the Villa team are becoming rarer, now that Martin O'Neill is the manager. It is likely that Villa will sign another defender during the transfer window next month.

For now, however, Mellberg's experience is essential to Villa as they bid to halt their mini-decline.

Villa will have the luxury of a full house against United but O’Neill does not believe that their recent performances have been a factor in average attendances hovering around 30,000.

He said: "I don’t think that [the crowd are disillusioned] at all because we have been playing splendidly since the Manchester City game a while back. It is up to us and the players to do well enough to bring the fans back to the club but it is not through a lack of decent performances.

"If you said the crowd was down because of results, then you never know, but I would deny it has been down because of performances. We have been splendid and played excellent football."

Gabor Kiraly, who joined last week on an emergency loan, will remain in goal while Craig Gardner will play in midfield if Gavin McCann does not overcome a hamstring injury. O'Neill will give McCann until the last possible moment, but Gardner impressed the manager against Bolton Wanderers last week.