Fergie seeks Villa Park revival

Dimitar Berbatov and five other players will miss Manchester United’s trip to Aston Villa this weekend through injury as Sir Alex Ferguson faces a deepening absentee list at the club. The Bulgarian aggravated an existing ankle injury in United’s 2-1 Carling Cup defeat to Crystal Palace on Wednesday, but is not expected to miss more than a fortnight. Meanwhile, twins Rafael and Fabio da Silva, both injured against the Championship side, will miss United’s visit to a ground where the Reds have a positive overall record.

Indeed, last season’s 2-2 draw at Villa Park was only the third point Villa has picked up at home against United in the last decade. That draw, built on a vibrant, attacking, youthful Villa side, is a world away from the dysfunctional unit manager Mcleish has built in the Midlands.

Meanwhile, Ferguson must balance both a lengthening injury list, and preparation for United’s crucial away tie with FC Basel in the Champions League next week. The Scot, never afraid to tinker, is likely to rotate his resources for the double-header. However, with United facing a less-than-taxing fixture list in December, Ferguson will surely seek to re-establish some momentum lost since the derby defeat to Manchester City.

“Berbatov’s injury isn’t serious,” explained the manager.

“He got injured the week before and it’s just a recurrence. We’ve been getting a few injuries but it happens. At the moment, we’re going through a spell where we’re getting a few a week but we have to get on with it.

“Squad rotation is inevitable. December is a particularly busy month when we often play a lot of games. We’ve got a Boxing Day game, a New Year’s Eve game and it’s going to be a hectic spell and that’s when the squad really kicks in. Actually, I think we’ve been using the squad very well lately. Nobody can complain about a lack of games. Everybody’s been getting their share.

“We’ve got two months to galvanise the club now. New Year’s Day, I want to be in a position where we’re top, or within a point or two of the leaders.”

Aston Villa versus Manchester United, Premier League, Villa Park, Saturday 3 December 2011, 5.30pmUnited faces not only Villa but QPR, Fulham, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers in one of the club’s least challenging Christmas programmes of recent years. But the set back against Palace, combined with injury disruption, means that Ferguson faces a challenge restoring confidence ahead of the weekend fixture.

With Danny Welbeck and Berbatov injured, Ferguson is likely to pair Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernández in attack. Meanwhile, former Villan Ashley Young should start on the left, with Nani on the right. However, the question on most fans’ lips is what balance Ferguson will strike in central midfield, with Park Ji-Sung near abysmal in the role against Palace. In-form Michael Carrick is therefore likely to partner Darren Fletcher, with Tom Cleverley and Anderson injury until the New Year.

However, Ravel Morrison’s positive substitute appearance against Palace may have given his manager food-for-thought, and the 18-year-old could yet make the United bench. With a team made largely of reserves losing in mid-week, Ferguson will have genuine cause for concern about his resources over a busy month, even if on paper United should emerge with 18 points before the New Year.

However, the manager, who apologised to fans and those players not selected on Wednesday, absolved his younger charges of blame for the defeat.

“It is hard to come on when the team is not playing well around them,” added Ferguson.

“It was a difficult night for them but it won’t do them any harm. They started very well for 10 minutes but then we got a lot of possession and didn’t do anything with it. I don’t think their goalkeeper made a save in the first half. Maybe we were playing too much short passing. There wasn’t enough spread in the game. I am not going to dwell and go into the ins and outs of it all. At the end of the day it has been a very disappointing night for Manchester United.”

Meanwhile, Villa manager Mcleish has a delicate selection dilemma for United’s visit. Chris Herd and Fabian Delph were deployed in the draw with Swansea last weekend, but Stiliyan Petrov is available after overcoming a hamstring problem, and Jermaine Jenas is pushing for a first start of the season. Barry Bannan and Stephen Ireland could also feature for the Villans.

Villa hasn’t beaten United at Villa Park since the 3-1 victory in 1996; the win that spurned Alan Hansen’s now infamous missive that “you can’t win anything with kids.” It is a result that Mcleish believes Villa can repeat this weekend, despite the Midlanders’ poor recent form.

“Why can’t we beat them this weekend?” said the Villa manager.

“This is a brilliant challenge for the players. But they shouldn’t be putting Manchester United players on a pedestal. They have to realise these guys have two legs just like us. There will be a day when Villa beat Manchester United at home again – so why can’t it be this weekend?

“To win a game like this would do wonders for everybody’s confidence and would be a big fillip for the fans. We’re at Villa Park, we want clubs like Manchester United going back up on the bus saying ‘what a game they gave us there, that’s a hard place to go’ and that’s what we’ve got to instil into the mentality here.”

Despite United’s average form of late, with Ferguson’s outfit having failed to score more than one goal in a league game for two months, the Reds will start as favourites. After all, even if United isn’t producing the free-flowing football of the late summer, then at least Villa’s product is far worse.

Match Facts
Aston Villa versus Manchester United, Premier League, Villa Park, Saturday 3 December 2011, 5.30pm

Likely Line-ups
Villa (4-3-3): Given; Hutton, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; N’Zogbia, Petrov, Herd; Agbonlahor, Bent, Heskey. Subs from: Guzan, Clark, Cuellar, Jenas, Albrighton, Bannan, Delph, Delfouneso, Weimann, Ireland.

United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Carrick, Young; Rooney; Hernandez. Subs from: Lindegaard, Smalling, Pogba, Evans, Fryers, Gibson, Park, Valencia, Diouf, Macheda.

United: WWDWDL

Performance stats

  • United was held to a 1-1 draw against Newcastle United last weekend. Hernandez scored United’s only goal – his sixth of the season. The Mexican has scored his six goals from 21 attempts, making a conversion rate of 29 per cent;
  • United has now scored just once in each of the side’s Premier League games since a 2-0 win over Norwich on October 1st, a run stretching six matches. Hernandez has scored the solitary goal in four of those six games;
  • Previously United had scored 24 goals in seven games at the start of the season, with the 6-1 defeat to City seemingly marking a change from free flowing attacking football to a more cautious approach;
  • Young covered most ground in the game against Newcastle with exactly seven miles and has averaged 6.47 miles per game this season;
  • Only Fletcher has covered more ground per game for United this season, with 6.6 miles;
  • Meanwhile, Villa played out a 0-0 draw with Swansea City last weekend, but Brummies covered a lazy 58.14 miles compared to Swansea’s 64.1. That was Villa’s lowest cumulative team distance of the season;
  • Villa missed midfielder Petrov in midfield, who has averaged an impressive 6.62 miles per game so far this season, and should be fit again for United’s visit;
  • Stephen Warnock is now Villa’s highest ranked player in the EA Sports Performance Index in 40th place. The young defender has won 23 tackles so far this season, 82 per cent of those attempted, and made 23 interceptions.

Referee: Lee Probert
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Scott Ledger
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend

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  1. chocolatteballs says

    Good write up. You can see from that diagram of our line up where our problem is .

    Anyway,take those two out and put a better two in and you’be changed your engine from a fumbling 1.4 litre to a nice supercharged 2.5 v6 .

    Either that or try tuning and tinkering with it till you might maybe 15 more break horse power by packing the middle a bit more and loosing your width.

    The first option is my preference but im bored with it all now and don’t care anymore.

  2. Gabagool says

    Give ravel a go for chrissake Fergie, at least off the bench. Fletcher and carrick have no attacking flair whatsoever.

  3. sheesh says

    I’m going to go off last weekend’s performance and hope we have our shooting boots on today.

    Villa are shit so we should beat them.


  4. han says

    its time for the real united to stand up
    shrek needs to find some jizzum from his swamp too and play like he did in the 1st 2 months

  5. Sidsidney says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    villa don’t try and score a goal


    A vision

    Carrick will have his 4th great game in a row and cap it off by scoring a belter

  6. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    sidney said:
    A vision

    Carrick will have his 4th great game in a row and cap it off by scoring a belter

    The Sneijder saga did you no favours Sid, so I’ll disagree

  7. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    captainhormone said:
    ed’s formations are about as reliable as an african prostitutes H.I.V results

    Maybe we should have a Formations Thread…

  8. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    Manchester United: Lindegaard, Smalling, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Jones, Young, Rooney, Hernandez. Subs: De Gea, Evans, Giggs, Park, Welbeck, Fletcher, Valencia.

  9. Sidsidney says

    kramer said:
    oh ffs – jones in midfield again. why the fuck does ferguson do this


    Because the alternative is worse

    Fletcher or Gibson

  10. says

    Fergie apparently said Fletch can’t play twice in a week at the moment… and he’s needed at Basel. Has United ever been so desperately short in midfield?

    • Damian Garside says

      It’s not United’s fault there’s no value in the market. Maybe we need to send the Glazers around to your house to sort you out for making a comment like that!

  11. madmaxmadmax says

    Considering De Gea has been distributing the ball better than all our midfielders put together,I’m just glad that Fergie hasn’t tried him out in midfield.

  12. Sidsidney says

    Ed said:
    Fergie apparently said Fletch can’t play twice in a week at the moment… and he’s needed at Basel. Has United ever been so desperately short in midfield?

    Fletcher is injured then

    So we have just one fit midfielder – and Gibson who we told to do one

  13. says

    sidney said:
    Fletcher is injured then

    So we have just one fit midfielder – and Gibson who we told to do one

    He’s fit – as in he’s on the bench but they’re holding him back for Wednesday

  14. Damian Garside says

    City won 5-1 today. Shit, this is getting so bad I am starting to I envy all those United fans out there who have dyslexia.

  15. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    any anti english cunts who can’t see jones is brilliant are cunts

    he has been a star for us so far.

  16. dozer says

    Commenter said:
    Rooney needs a goal.
    And Young.

    Rooney won’t play well for an other 3 months. It’s that phase of his season.
    He’ll score penalties but nothing more.

  17. han says

    needed to score more than a single goal that half
    villa are shite but we should really be taking them to the cleaners

  18. sheesh says

    han said:
    needed to score more than a single goal that half
    villa are shite but we should really be taking them to the cleaners

    This is a concern. We did the same thing against Newcastle in the first half. Dominated possession and scored 1 goal but then failed to test the keeper in the first half. Then they got a dodgy decision in the second half and the rest is history.
    All it takes is one defensive cock up or bad decision by the ref and we are back on level terms. Their keeper has had bugger all to do.
    We need to stop messing about and show some intent. None of our other rivals would sit on a 1 goal lead.

  19. han says

    since we got our arses handed to us 6 weeks ago, there is a real lack of killer instinct in this team
    ffs this lack of ambition is giving the opposition something to aim at this half

  20. han says

    Commenter said:
    looking forward for the nervy ending anyone?

    we should be well used to it these past few weeks
    ffs come on united, score a 2nd

  21. vlad says

    Still Rooney is the quickest man we’ve got.
    I understand his passes better when they are not accurate – he would manage to come to them himself.

  22. sheesh says

    han said:
    sweet pea has ankle ligament damage according to the bbc
    6 months out?

    Not sure if this is much of a guide but I think Van Persie had a similar injury and was out for 2 months whilst Rodwell also had the same problem and was out for 3.

    That was such a boring second half of football. Watching United is such a joyless experience these days. They score 1 goal and lack the will, ideas or conviction to score any more the longer the game goes on. I’m sick of hearing all this cliched bollocks about us being the masters at grinding out results.

  23. sheesh says

    We paid £33 million for Young and Valencia but, according to some, Fergie is starved of funds by the Glazers to buy even one decent centre midfielder.

  24. ltel says

    Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirms that Javier Hernandez has “torn ligaments in his ankle” and will be out for “three to four weeks.”

  25. Sidsidney says

    ltel said:
    Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirms that Javier Hernandez has “torn ligaments in his ankle” and will be out for “three to four weeks.”

    Ligaments take months to heal, don’t they?

  26. sheesh says

    ltel said:
    Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirms that Javier Hernandez has “torn ligaments in his ankle” and will be out for “three to four weeks.”

    In Fergie-speak that means 3-4 months.

  27. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    I called out valencia as shite two years ago when you lot were giving him all the credit for rooneys 30+ goal season

    villa standard skill-less one dimensional shitehouse

    and shat himself v barca

  28. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    well I don’t recall any dive but if there was one it was clearly an attempt to get squigs and other english hating twats onside by acting foreign

  29. Sidsidney says


    The commentators didn’t mention it on my stream. He must be immune from diving criticism by virtue of being English

    It’s something we should exploit, like Liverpool have done with Gerrard

  30. denton davey says

    sheesh @ 8:45: “We paid £33 million for Young and Valencia but, according to some, Fergie is starved of funds by the Glazers to buy even one decent centre midfielder.”

    That figure proves that there’s “no value in the market.”

  31. denton davey says

    Does the less-than-glittering performances of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia give SAF no choice but to give Ravel Morrison a chance to play ?

  32. sheesh says

    Commenter said:
    Does the less-than-glittering performances of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia give SAF no choice but to give Ravel Morrison a chance to play ?

    I see no reason why we shouldn’t start him as a substitute and bring him on in those games where we’re winning comfortably – although it seems to be a rarety when we’re winning comfortably these days. Same with Pogba. Giving them a taste of first team football would be good for their development and give under-performing players a kick up the backside.

  33. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    we’re dull as fuck though

    again, city aren’t just better they’re better to watch, a disgrace

  34. sheesh says

    The scary thing is you just wonder where they are going to drop points. They have the squad (in terms of numbers and quality players) to swat aside the riff raff and generally be more consistent.
    The only thing working against them is a collective lack of experience of a title run-in in April/May.
    We have experience but half the team is getting injured and we play boring, shite football irrespective of who starts.
    We really shot ourselves in the foot not beating Newcastle last week. We are grimly clinging onto their coat-tails and it’s only December FFS.

  35. Damian Garside says

    I think we should forget about City — they are going to win the PL — the only team that can stop them, who are slowly, slightly coming good is Chelski.

    For us: two things: firstly to worry about ourselves and start to play good football. Rather win 2 out of 3 matches with great flowing football than win all 3 with football so terrible it is a complete negation of what our club stands for. Maybe we can beat them at the Eithad — a win there would be good revenge and it is possible. Catching them isn’t I think. They may even break a few records regarding goald difference and record points. But there’s nothing we can do about that. They had to carry on when we were winning everything, we have to do the same.Their wheels may fall off a bit — but they have a buffer that seems likely to increase over every four games, not narrow to the point we are in striking distance. They want success so much — they have the energy and excitement of this all being so new for them. Our guys can’t generate that level of enthusiasm having won it so often — it’s just not psychologically possible. here’s an analogy: remember the 20 th time you did it? there again, remeber the first time?

    Second thing: when they win — let’s be graceful about it. I know many of you love Sir Alex etc — but you don’t have to be the churlish cunt that he sometimes can be. esp since my knowledge of the red blue divide is that it cuts through some households.

    What we should aim for is not overtaking them in the run-in — coz we will not be close enough when that happens — but crushing teams in the last ten games or so — having found our best combinatio, having got a couple of key players in the Jan transfer window.

    Those who think that little Ciddy can’t win anything because it is not their fate or karma to, or that they have some genetic football malaise that will surface at just the last moment — are dimmer than the dimmest student that I ever taught. I saw the pattern of their play against norwich — midfield retaining possession and slipping through these short balls for players like Nasri and Aguero to run onto. That is so difficult to defend against.

    But when we go to the Eithad we must have a nasty surprise in store for them.

    Another 6-1 defeat for us there and there is only one solution for Sir A and his squad: a wall round the back of the stadium and a machine gun.

  36. ja says

    I am seriously wondering whether it would be better and more interesting to watch City v Bayern next week rather than Basel v United.

  37. says

    shit boring performance but no worry SAF know best and this is just about results and performance is not really important so SAF bummers will be fine. there is no problem at all.

    the simple fact that taggart has shifted rooney into midfield whilst leaving park and fletcher on the bench is an admission that his policy of ignorance, stubborness and technical incompetence through poor squad selection, tactics and limiting his options has failed. our strikers are preferred to our midfielders in midfield!!!

    it was boring, uninspired but effective. reminds me of george graham’s arsenal. 1-0 to the arsenal … fuck off.

    the form of nani, young and rooney masked the deep structural problems in midfield.

    can you even imagine rooney being injured for even two weeks – that’s our fwds and midfield power completely depleted. this clinging hope to cleverely is also very dangerous.

  38. dozer says

    Yeah Young, Smalling and Cleverley’s performance this season have saved us.
    Nani, the brilliant Vidic and upto an extent Rooney have performed well but this was expected right? This isn’t a value add over last season. Carrick has been excellent lately too.
    The jury’s still out on Welbeck and De Gea. Our first choice 11 is the probably the best in the league but we’re losing becasue of the rotation/squad strength that is required over the season. The excellent Da Silva twins and Cleverley’s injury has almost cost us the title. The other factor against us in the big games is our inability to play a 4-4-3. We don’t have the players suitable for this formation.
    Ferguson is guilty of overrelying on certain established players – well just one crap midfielder. He’s also been playing Jones more often that he should imo. We should have kept O’Shea for one more season. Berbatov this season has been a major disappointment. Valencia has been poor earlier this season too, but he’s playing well lately. He’ll come good – he looks top quality, which will be a big boost for us post Jan.
    Now that we’ve lost Hernandez, I’d rather have Nani in the hole with Rooney up front and Valencia and Young on the wings than giving Welbeck a go in this critcal couple of months. Even if Hernandez were fit, this would be my preferred option. Hernandez looks better off the bench.
    It’s critical that Valencia isn’t dropped or tinkered about because he’s improving every game and when he plays well it’s not just the right wing but other players benefit too.

    Sir Ryan Giggs? No no no. Sir Paul Scholes say.

  39. shauno says

    Can’t name a single club in the history of football that has consistently played good (not even great) football. Squads go through cycles as players age and younger players and new signings come through. We are in a dip and I know its frustrating seeing City play well whilst we are in a dip. But talk of I’d rather see us lose more games but play flowing football are not my idea of good management. A job needs to be done and that job involves staying in touch with whoever is at the top and getting through the group stages of the CL. We do this however we can. We grind it out. Yes we need some midfield players but we ain’t getting them in Jan so deal with it. One game at a time no expectations other than to beat whats in front of us. I’d rather we won the league again this year by grinding it out and sticking two fingers up to City. Our defence is mean 7 clean sheets this season.

    • says

      So much for our association with the beautiful game.

      get it into your litle head: we cannot win by ginding it out unless City slip big time — and they aren’t going to. To win grinding it out means you need to score at least 2 a game to be sure of the 3 pts. Do you seriously see this team playing as they are now scoring 2 goals a game.

      Plus you also have to live with the following the following becoming the automatic associations of all supporters except us — and I don’t mean the ABU brigae. The association City = the artists, we = the artisans and the football cynics who will do whatever it takes.

      Also: we don’t have the tought, strong physical players to control the midfield to such an extent that we can grind out victories (like George Graham’s Arsenal, or the Leeds teams of the early 70s).

      We are not going to eclipse Barcelona by grinding anything.

      Also: do your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend a favour and forget the word `grind’. Wipe it from your lexicon.

      Fuck grinding a one point league championship win over City where everyone says United won but football lost. I rather come second — but beat them 4 or 5 nil at the Eithad.

  40. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Damian – You’re wasting your time. You cannot change the minds of those whose philosophy is basically The Ends Justifies the Means. As United supporters, these people will take grinding out 1-0 results over teams that City, Cheatski, Spurs, and Arsenal batter, because they are certain that staying within touching distance of City for now guarantees a 20th title at the end of the season – after City do another ‘City’ (as they always do) and Spurs fade while Arsenal fall apart in the second half of the season (again, because they always do). The ‘Ends’ crowd will believe that Cheatski have already lost too many games this season (considering that Cheatski will almost certainly lose at least as many more by the end, they are probably right about this one). The thing is, it could just happen; it did last season when all the other title contenders shot themselves in the foot – repeatedly – and allowed United to win its 19th league title with the worst collection of players ever to lift the Premiership trophy. City is my one worry; they just don’t seem City-like anymore.
    Like you, I would prefer to see United play the beautiful game beautifully regardless of the results. I have been unable to watch a couple of the recent matches live and have had to make do with downloads. In both cases, I downloaded the pre-game, first and second halves, and, when available, the post-game segments, but found myself unable to watch much past the one and only goal United scored early in the first half. The football is shit; if you didn’t have to watch it to the end while it is live in order to know the result, I don’t think many supporters would watch the entire match. For the ‘Ends’ crowd, however, winning is everything, so they’ll continue to endure the diabolical football and clamor for Mourinho to take over when Sir Alex finally calls it a day, because Jose will give them more of the same.

  41. Damian Garside says

    Thanks Rob

    An interesting any-whicj-way-you-lose situation might emerge for us United fans who feel that something needs to be done and that we are slipping.

    If we beat Basle and City lose to Bayern and we win our next match and City lose theirs — then the its just a small glitch people will feel vindicated and pillory the `traitor’ critics from within who started to lose faith mercilessly. So me and others who have expressed similar sentiments are exposed as the idiots we are. But we ARE now in with a chance of sorting out City provided we can use these wins as a springboard.

    If we lose to basle and we drop points and City win in the next game, then we look smart and sussed — we were able to see what the others couldn’t — but how team is being sw2ept away in a really bad avalanche — we could be heading for one of our worst seasons in memory.

    The nice feeling of being clever and saying `I told you so’ won’t matter when it all falls apart.

    My prediction is that we are heading for a more up and down phase: there will be matches where we play much better than we have been doing and matches where we don’t — we will beat Basle and one of the two encounters with City — if it’s the league one we go out of the cup ignominiously early, if it is the cup one that 3 points in a six-pointer added to the current 5 and the goal difference difference means a nine point gap. That may be too great.

    But if we do beat City in the Cup then we have to make sure that we go on to win it, and if we do beat them in the league, then we have to use this morale boost to drive on to the title.

    Of course, the CL looks totally beyind us: worth a bet though, given the probable long odds offered after our recent form.

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