Preview: Aston Villa v United

Not since Sir Alex Ferguson’s kids crumbled in 1996 has Manchester United lost to the second City’s leading team at Villa Park –  in the Premier League at least. The 3-1 loss, followed Alan Hansen’s now infamous chide, is long past, with United emerging undefeated 17 occasions in a row during the intervening years.

Indeed, there is nothing in the form of these two teams that suggests anything bar another win on the road for Ferguson’s team this Saturday, with United enjoying a spell of good results, and Villa resting just a place above the relegation zone.

Still, United’s inability to keep a clean sheet will retain Ferguson’s concern despite his side’s outstanding recent record at Villa Park, although the Midlanders have scored just five goals all season at the 115-year-old stadium. Paul Lambert’s evolution at Villa Park is taking some time to bed in, with just nine points this season, leaving only Reading, Southampton and Queens Park Rangers to prop up the Birmingham side.

Relegation will be far from Lambert’s mind, but it is now more than 16 years since Villa last won a trophy and American Randy Learner’s spell in control of the club has yielded little promise, let alone silverware. It is a recent past that has cast a cloud over one of the Football League’s founding members. Indeed, it is now history rather than the present that is the currency on which Villa primarily trades.

“They have a great history,” said Ferguson on Friday.

“It’s probably correct to say that they haven’t matched their expectations over the years. The year we won the league [in 1993] they had a good team. You wonder when managers change whether that has bigger effect than the playing standard of the team. They’ve had quite a few managers – quite a collection over the years.”

Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League, Villa Park - Saturday 10 November 2012, 5.30pmJohn Gregory, Martin O’Neill, Gérard Houllier, David O’Leary, and Alex McLeish have tried and variously failed to bring silverware to Villa Park since Brian Little’s outfit won the 1996 League Cup. That relegation fodder Birmingham City won the same competition in 2011 cannot sit well with Villains.

Years of failure, and United’s outstanding record at Villa Park, leaves Sir Alex unmoved – accepting complacency from his side in the Saturday tea time kick off.

“Although we have a great record at Villa Park we never take them for granted,” adds Sir Alex.

“We’ve always had to perform there. It’s been a good ground for us as a team, though, and I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s one of the old traditional grounds. There’s always a good atmosphere and the support is always fantastic. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going as it’s got us into a good position.”

United laboured to three points in Braga on Wednesday night, following the deceptive 2-1 victory over Arsenal last weekend. That was victory gained, but a match which left Ferguson feeling angry about United’s profligacy. Not for the first time this season the 70-year-old Scot reminded his players that never again should United lose the league title on goal difference.

Fortunate, then, that Ferguson has a quartet of strikers in fine form. While Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney grab the headlines, Javier Hernández has scored half-a-dozen goals in recent games. Danny Welbeck, lauded for his role last season and with England during the summer, has seemingly dropped to fourth choice.

The striking riches has Ferguson demanding United scores 100 league goals in the campaign. Cynics, it could be said, will point to the Reds’ defensive record and add that Ferguson’s side will need to do just that if United is to secure a 20th domestic league title come next May.

“It’s a healthy combination we’ve got,” said Ferguson.

“Robin has come to us at the right time, no doubt about that. He’s got us 11 goals so far. The way young Chicha has started this season, I’m certain he’ll get to 20 goals plus. The summer’s rest has helped him enormously and he’s looking fresh and aggressive in his running. Wazza will get there too, he’ll get 20 goals plus I’m sure.

“We have 15 goalscorers this year and it’s definitely helping us at the moment. I look back to that season in 2000, when we were three goal short of 100 in the Premier League. The last game was at Villa Park, when we had the opportunity to get to 100 but didn’t quite make it. It would be nice to think we could do that.”

However, Ferguson will have to do without several injured players on Saturday, including Nani who will miss 10 days with a hamstring strain. Jonny Evans has a minor groin problem, with Chris Smalling ready to play a second game in four days, while captain Nemaja Vidić will not feature before the New Year. Midfielder Shinki Kagawa misses the next month, and Phil Jones returns to full training next week.

“Nemanja is a long way off, we can forget about him until after Christmas,” admitted Ferguson.

“Jones trains with the first team on Monday with the football side, which is good, and he should be available maybe 10 days after that so things are looking better that way. We’re hoping Evans will be okay for Saturday. He’s a doubt, although not a serious one. Nani is out with a tight hamstring and that will be around 10 days but he should be okay. It’s not torn, just tight.”

Meanwhile, the host’s Karim El Ahmadi returns after suspension, but defender Eric Lichaj is banned. Defender Joe Bennett is struggling with a knee injury so Enda Stevens could, while striker Darren Bent is still out.

Whatever the injuries and suspensions the fixture is likely to prove a difficult test for a Villa side yet to find any real form this season.

“I know the task of it and the team know the task of it, but on any given day you just don’t know what can happen,” said manager Lambert.

“To beat someone like United you need a bit of luck. We also have to believe that we can win. The belief in the football team at the minute is there. We are going to have to play well against them that’s for sure.”

Playing well, let alone winning, is a feat Villa has achieve ever so rarely this season.

Match Details
Aston Villa v Manchester United – Premier League, Villa Park – Saturday 10 November 2012, 5.30pm

Possible teams
Villa (4-4-2): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Stevens; Ireland, El Ahmadi, Bannan, Weimann; Agbonlahor, Benteke. Subs from: Given, Stevens, Lichaj, Albrighton, Delph, Holman, Bowery, Westwood,  Herd.

United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Scholes, Carrick; Valencia, Rooney, Young; van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Wootton, Büttner, Giggs, Powell, Anderson, Cleverley, Fletcher, Nani, Hernández, Welbeck.

Referee: K Friend
Assistants: J Flynn, S Burt
Fourth Official: M Halsey

United: WWWLWW

Head to Head
Last 10: Villa 1, United 6, Draw 3
Overall: Villa 49, United 91, Draw 38


  • Ciaran Clark was dominant in breaking up play for Villa against Sunderland last weekend, making 30 interceptions, the most by a player in a single game all season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index;
  • Ashley Westwood displayed a fantastic work rate in covering 7.1 miles in the game, the most by a Villa player in a single game this season;
  • Defenders Mathew Lowton and Ron Viaar have been standout performers lately, winning 22 and 20 tackles respectively this season;
  • In Bent’s absence Gabriel Agbonlahor finally ended his run of 28 league games with a goal by scoring last weekend’s winner against Sunderland;
  • Meanwhile, for United van Persie has scored eight goals from 15 shots on target in the Premier League this season, compared to Carlos Tevez’ four goals from 21 shots on target, and Darren Bent’s two goals from nine shots on target;
  • van Persie striker partner Rooney covered 7.03 miles against Arsenal last weekend, the most by a United player in a single game this season;
  • Michael Carrick has made the sixth most successful passes in the Premier League this season, finding a team-mate 301 times according to the Index.


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  1. gabagool says

    Should be a romp… but these are the games where Fergus has a little tinker and can balls things up, hopefully he’ll leave things alone.
    Way too much firepower for this lot, 3-1 United.

  2. marlon says

    Agbonlahor’s pace always gives us problems and with the possibility of Carrick starting next to Rio, we will be very vulnerable.

  3. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    itll be the same team as usual, villa should be shite enough that rooney doesnt have to do all that midfield shite though

  4. Minus The Bear says

    De Gea / Rafael, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evra / Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Young / Rooney / RVP


    Anderson, Lindegaard, Hernandez, Welbeck, Cleverley, Fletcher, Buttner

  5. Banforth says

    should be good enough to win it – midfield pairing of Scholes / Carrick always susceptible to high octane pressing but the assembled might of united’s attack (aka VP) should carry the day. Might not be as emphatic as we’re hoping, i reckon.

  6. Minus The Bear says

    Why the fuck are we constantly letting steven ireland run straight through the middle and just sauntering back.

  7. bman says

    Minus The Bear said:
    Why the fuck are we constantly letting steven ireland run straight through the middle and just sauntering back.

    I think you know the answer to that.

  8. bman says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    obviously scholes is gonna have to come off, and not via red card

    We’ve got Fletch, Ando, and Cleverley on the bench, so that’s our full set of midfield options.

  9. bman says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    can we do something other than give valencia the ball

    That’s more or less all we’ve done for the past 3 seasons. It’s ridiculous how lopsided we are in attack.

  10. davek says

    another piss poor half from utd- we’re playing one of the poorest teams in the prem and we’ve produced almost nothing in 40 minutes.

  11. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    Fair play, we are fucking woeful. The quality is piss poor.

    It was no foul, Smalling got fucking served. Valencia might as well go home, he can take Young with him. Carrick is in softshite mode so he can fuck off to.

    No tempo and our creative play is dire, and that’s being kind.

  12. davek says

    May as well bring on Cleverley and Anderson as Carrick and Scholes look half asleep.
    Think utd thought they’d win this way too easily and haven’t bothered trying.

  13. Sidsidney says

    But Bri, it was a foul on Smalling if the Ferdinand one was earlier

    No point in moaning about it though, we’ve been shite

  14. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    sidney said:
    But Bri, it was a foul on Smalling if the Ferdinand one was earlier

    No point in moaning about it though, we’ve been shite

    I’m not sure Sid mate, Rio was the aggressor (Which in my books was a fair shoulder barge)but to the letter of the law was in the wrong. To me Smalling looked like he tried to barge the guy and wasn’t strong enough and bounced off him. Like you say, hardly worth mentioning because we are wank.

  15. Sidsidney says

    brianofnazareth said:
    What’s wrong with Nani, injured?

    Tight hamstring, aye

    We need more ideas than simple balls out wide to Val and Young because Villa are doing a good job at snuffing it out

  16. bman says

    Yep, put Clev and Ando on in the middle of the pitch, try to recreate some of that attacking energy we had at the start of last season. I’ve a feeling we’re not going to manage to win this now being 2-0 down, there’s only so many times we can get away with that, and we’re doing it every game now, it’s fucking abject.

  17. bman says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    shit in midfield, stick rooney there, shit on the wing, stick rooney there

    Rooney’s not even playing well.

  18. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    If cuntstain doesn’t put some energy on in the middle we’ll concede the third. Honestly we’re shit. Fergie no longer gets the hair-dryer out apparently and it shows.

  19. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    I think Carrick just got a bit of his sock dirty, he’ll be fuming.

    The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits…..

  20. Sidsidney says

    There is no midfield, they’re just running right through unopposed

    But it’s the forwards who are being really shit, they’re utterly idealess, and keep giving it away

  21. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    sidney said:
    He’s limited but fucking hell can he finish

    But that’s what he does, worked for Gary Lineker.

    Can we get Rio off, it’s painful.

  22. madmaxmadmax says

    Letting in too many bells from the wings,letting them run through the midfield and both our centerbacks have been poor. We are definitely going to concede atleast one more time. Need to get one soon

  23. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says


  24. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says


  25. Sidsidney says

    That’s fucking character

    That’s Fergie through and through

    Gone behind 11 times now, pretty sure 8 or 9 of them are wins

  26. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    We keep winning, even though we’ve been relatively poor.

    We are going to absolutely destroy a few teams if we find some proper form.

  27. davek says

    Don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that we’re going to have to do it with a poor midfield and a dodgy defence. Thank god that on a day when Rooney was poor and RVP was quiet we had Hernandez turn up.

  28. marlon says

    Weird how last season we had the best wingers in the league and now there’s no reason to start any of them over a striker. May as well start with Chich/Rooney/RVP.

    Hernandez has scored in each of the last 5 games he’s played in (vs. Braga x2, Chelsea x2, Villa) – 7 (8) goals in those games

  29. Denton Davey says

    Alfonso Bedoya @ 7:45: “Scholes has been rubbish, but that’s what he can do.”

    Not often enough nowadays. Plus, he’s really slow – just like Michael Carrick. Playing that pair together no longer works.

    At half-time I thought SAF should have brought on Chicharito for Young (who I simply do NOT rate) and Cleverley for Scholes. Unfortunately, the phone line wasn’t working so Fergy only got the first half of the message. Fortunately, the line was repaired and he figured out what I was calling about.

    This was the beginning of five “easy” matches in a row – Villa, Norwich, QPR, West Ham, and Reading before the M/C derby on December 8th. That should be 15 points and a significant boost to the goal difference. The way that TheLads are playing – everything is a cliff-hanger – it looks like UTD might get the 15 points but improving the goal-difference looks a bit beyond them.

  30. Sidsidney says

    sheesh said:
    Missed the game FFS.

    Ha ha

    Top of the league and top of the Champions League group with wins away at some really tough grounds, and all the good teams played except City. Not bad going.

  31. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    As a United fan living in birmingham, that gave me immense pleasure,
    To see sweet pea put that 3rd goal away, and send the vile villa fans home shattered and depressed,
    Oh great days.

  32. AnantaxAnantax says

    I fell asleep (game started 130am my time) and when i woke up we were 2 goals down.

    Stayed awake and we won 3-2. Shows you what sleeping on the job does….

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