With Manchester United facing Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday, I posed several questions to forum members of the Heroes & Villains Forum.
Stretford End Arising: What are your thoughts on Saturday’s game? How are Villa likely to line up? What formation do you think they will adopt and what team do you expect to be selected? Which players should United keep an eye on? Which United player do you think poses the greatest threat to Villa?
Risso: We’re currently in the middle of our worst injury crisis for years, so expect to see a lot of kids. I think we’ll try and keep it tight and play the following 4-5-1:
-Young – Collins – Dunne – Warnock –
Downing – Bannan – Clark – Albrighton
Timeoutbigbar: I think the line-up and formation will be pretty much what Risso said. I’d watch out for Bannan, and if Gabby does start, although he is coming back from injury, I believe he has a pretty good record against you so far. From your lot, probably Berbatov will be the biggest threat and Hernandez if he starts/comes on.
Cheltenhamlion: I think it has a draw written all over it. You aren’t playing well and we will be starting with half of the youth team on account of injuries. We will play one up top and we rather hope that will be a fit Gabby who we have missed tremendously so far. Downing has been baout our best player this season.
Cdvillafan: Depends on how many get injured in the warm-up. Probably – Friedel, L Young, Warnock, Dunne, Collins, Albrighton, Clark, Bannan, Downing, A Young, Agbonlahor (4-5-1). I think you are nothing special this season but we have 463 players out injured. Ireland’s got the flu? 464. You should be favourites especially if Vidic brings his referee with him as usual, but you never know.
Sidwell is the player Man United should keep an eye on. He’s injured for a while but watch him for the rest of the season. Then bid £60million for him. You won’t regret it… he’s the greatest player of all time. Make it £100million and we’ll thrown in Curtis Davies.
The referee poses the greatest threat to Villa.
SEA: Are you disappointed O’Neill is no longer manager? Has Gerard Houllier made a difference compared to Martin O’Neill’s final season?
Risso: Disappointed? I was absolutely chuffed to bits to see the back of O’Neill and his dire brand of football. The jury is still out on Houllier, but until he’s had time to bring in a few of his own players and ship out the ones that he doesn’t fancy, I think most fans will be patient.
Timeoutbigbar: Any manager who thinks he has outgrown the club or develops an overwhelming self importance needs to go. I am not particularly sorry to see the back of him, with his seemingly limited knowledge of foreign transfers and Leicester City brand of football.
Cheltenhamlion: I couldn’t be happier that MON has gone with his one dimensional, unwatchable crap football that we played at home. The timing was bloody dreadful though.
Cdvillafan: Not really. I was getting fed up with his xenophobic recruitment policy (in my opinion). Was disappointed by the way he left us. This myth about ‘no money to spend’ grates. Only Manchester City have spent more money than us since 2006. Only Agbonlahor (who had only previously played one game) remains from the O’Dreary era. This is O’Neill’s team. Yet despite all the money lavished on him to spend on some stars (Ashley, Milner one or two others) and a whole lot of dross (Davies, Harewood, Shorey, Sidwell, etc) he wasn’t prepared to stick by the club unless he was given even more money to spend. Unless he knows some friends who are Sheikhs he is unlikely to find a more generous employer elsewhere than Randy Lerner. Fuck him.
Houllier has made a bit of a difference, in that he’s blooded some youngsters. Although I think O’Neill wouldn’t have had much choice with the injuries we’ve had. One difference is that I reckon O’Neill would’ve loaned or sold Barry Bannan and we would be stuck with Salifou or Osbourne as our current midfield lynchpin. Still, it’s too early to tell with M Houllier. As others have said, give him a couple of transfer windows and we’ll see.
SEA: United in recent times have an excellent record against Villa – why is this?
Risso: As for your record against us, I suppose the simple answer is that you’ve nearly always had a better team than us, but in a way I think those sort of runs become self perpetuating after a while, with the team almsot expecting not to win. It was nice to put the Old Trafford hoodoo to rest last season.
Chris Harte: Because the game is all about money these days, to be frank.
Fair play to United, they have (as long as I can remember – from the 80s onwards) been very marketable due to their large support and this is something that gives them an advantage over everyone, other than those clubs bought by Russian billionaires and oil-drenched sheikhs. This helps make United better than most on the pitch, Villa included, sadly.
Cheltenhamlion: More money makes better players and we are also hampered by the fact your manage rhas a lot of respect for us so tends to play the full first team whereas he may rotate against other clubs.
Cdvillafan: Generally you’ve been better than us. I think we suffer as we are not good enough to regularly challenge you as Chelsea, Arsenal and (occasionally) Liverpool have been. However, we’re too big for you to completely disregard us and play your kids against or take us for granted. In this respect we’re similar to Spurs… who also have a shocking record against you. Still, four points last season and even the most one-eyed Man U fan would have to admit we were cheated blind at Wembley so maybe we can start to turn round our poor run against you.
SEA: Are Villa capable of competing for a Champions League place?
Risso: Unfortunately no, this season will be one of stabilising things after O’Neill left us in the lurch in the manner he did, so think that top 4 will be beyond us this season. I’m pretty sure the top 4/5 will be Chelsea, you lot, Arsenal, Man City and Spurs, probably in that order.
Timeoutbigbar: I wouldn’t really expect us to be challenging the champions league this year. Having said that, the majority of the table seems to be bunched up, and even the best teams are capable of slipping up. No-one looks nailed on for the fourth spot, so here’s hoping!
Cheltenhamlion: We are capable but we won’t. After being dropped in the shit 5 days before the start of the season it really is the cups for us to concentrate on this year although any finish below 8th would be disappointing.
Cdvillafan: Villarreal? Yes. Us? Not yet, maybe in a couple of seasons.
SEA: Which of the new summer signings have you been impressed by and who has disappointed?
Risso:Summer signings, are you taking the piss?! We lost our best player in Milner to your chums down the road, and our one new player was Stephen Ireland in part excchange. I really like him as a player, but he’s done absolutely nothing this season so far, I really don’t think that Houllier rates him.
Timeoutbigbar: Stephen Ireland? Erm, it’s been a slow start… I’ll back him to come good though given time to settle.
Cheltenhamlion: We haven’t signed anyone bar Ireland who is still feeling his way in.Although for a gratuitous dig, Sidwell is the single biggest waste of space I have seen in a Villa shirt in the last decade.
Cdvillafan: Van der Vaart has been pretty good. Sadly, not for us.
SEA: Villa appear to have exciting youngsters coming through. Barry Bannan impressed massively earlier this season when he scored a hat-trick in the reserves fixture between the two clubs, plus there is Delfouneso and Albrighton. Which are your thoughts on these players? Are they good enough to become regular first team players? Which other youngsters are worth keeping an eye on?
Risso: The emergence of the kids has been the high point of the season, and I think that Bannan, Albrighton and Clark all have bright futures for us.
Timeoutbigbar: I do think both Bannan and Albrighton have massive potential, and if I’m honest I don’t really think I’ve seen enough of Clark to judge. Delfouneso, the jury is still out in my honest opinion.
Cheltenhamlion: They can all make it in the first team it just would have been nice if they were not getting such a baptism of fire. MON and is lack of rotation policy to blame there. Gary Gardner is out injured at the minute but he is one hell of a prospect.
Cdvillafan: They are all good enough to become first team players with the possible exception of Delfouneso, on whom the jury’s still out. Hopefully he will come good. I always liked Clark, Bannan and Albrighton when I saw them in the reserves / youth. I like young American right-back Eric Lichaj (pronounced to rhyme with ‘yee-haw!’) too. Ellis Deeney, a left-back, is my pick of the youth team but he is probably a couple of seasons off debuting yet.
SEA: Favourite Manchester United vs Aston Villa match?
Risso: Favourite all time Villa – Man United match for me was the 1994 League Cup final. Wasn’t expecting much from the game but we battered you and had a great day out.
Dave Clark Five:
23 December 1970. Villa 2 Utd 1. Attendance 62500.
Scorers: Lochhead, McMahon. Kidd.
This was Third Division Villa against Utd who had won the European Cup two years earlier and with most of the big named players in the team.
Villa had drawn the away leg two weeks previously and the second leg was eagerly awaited. Queues for tickets stretched from the Trinity Road Enclosure turnstiles, behind the Holte pub, down Witton Lane and up Nelson Road back into Trinity Road. By early morning the back of the queue could be seen from the front!
The atmosphere inside Villa Park on the night of the match was absolutely electric and many of us there still consider this our greatest game. Nobody wanted to leave the ground. The Utd keeper was Jimmy Rimmer. Who would have thought that twelve years later he would be playing in the European Cup Final for Villa.
SEA: Favourite all time Villa player?
Risso: Favourite all time Villa player – Paul McGrath, thanks very much!
Timeoutbigbar: Dwight Yorke – As much as I hated him for a while, my first Villa hero.
Cdvillafan: The man Franco Baresi called “the best defender in the World”… Paul McGrath. You’ve probably heard of him.
SEA: Thank you very much.
If you wish to discuss Saturday’s game with myself or other members of the Stretford End Arising community, you can do so in the Stretford End Arising forum