It’s a tough time to be an Aston Villa fan and it’s hard to see things getting any better at Old Trafford on Sunday! Without wanting to sound like a typical pessimistic Villa fan it really has been a pretty horrific season by our own relatively low standards. The days of David O’Leary seem heavenly compared to the drivel we’ve watched under Alex McLeish this season.
The hard-nosed Scot, unfortunately nothing like United boss Sir Alex, plays a brand of football that has made watching paint dry one of my favourite weekend pastimes. Negative, defensive and with Emile Heskey a starting regular it is hardly a recipe for success and the decision to appoint him from Birmingham is starting to look like one of the bigger mistakes in Premier League history.
Safety in the league is still far from guaranteed and with a thumping at the hands of United likely on Sunday then relegation could become a very real possibility. Villa would only be three or four points above the drop zone by the end of the weekend and with injuries to senior players like Stan Petrov, Richard Dunne and Darren Bent, how the young lads cope on the run-in is a real worry.
There is plenty of youthful talent at the club and they head to Old Trafford with nothing to lose. Unfortunately McLeish will no doubt see this as a game we cannot win (as he did at the Emirates against Arsenal a few weeks back) and the action is likely to be very much concentrated on one end of the pitch on Sunday – the Villa goal!
For those looking to have a punt on the game I’d lump on the United win to nil. Whenever Villa head to the bigger clubs McLeish looks to shut up shop and pray for the draw (trips to Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool are a case in point, with a win at Chelsea looking like a blemish!) and that looks the best they can hope for with so many injury problems.
United go into the game on the back of their defeat to Wigan, as you well know, and Villa could well be on the end of a backlash, particularly from Wayne Rooney. The England striker was subbed in mid-week after a below-par display and he should have plenty to prove to the manager this weekend. What price a Rooney hat-trick?
Obviously there is a bit more pressure on United than they would have liked at this stage after the loss to Wigan but don’t expect this Villa side to create too many problems. It could be Rooney v Shay Given at times on Sunday afternoon and it will make for painful viewing for Claret and Blue supporters, with the 3-0 United win my prediction. Roll on next season and as D:Ream once sang, (surely) “things can only get better”……
Chris Knight, Aston Villa Fan