Writer: J P Fear
Date:Sunday December 18 2005
Attendance: 37 128
Ok. So the white flag was up before the game even started, so what else can be said?
There are so many problems at Villa it is untrue, but it seems any time people like me mention them, so fan gets annoyed at the 'negativity'. I'd call it realism. Most fans who went knew for a fact, before the whistle blew, that Villa would lose. I'm not sure quite so many fans would have been prepared for the way we lost though. Manchester United won by 2 clear goals, so on paper it doesn't look too bad. BUT United were hardly tested, rarely had to break out of a canter and were in fact simply provided with a nice three points via what to them would have been a decent level practice match.
IF United had needed to, they had five more gears to go up into, but they didn't need to do more than win and against such a tame opposition, had no real need to push.
I could go on about the Ellis situation, but most people already have their opinions on that, I could go on about the manager, but again, what is the point? From top to bottom there is a lack of leadership and direction and that resulted in only 37 000 fans turning up. United were as always given a large ticket allocation, so the majority of absentees were Villa fans. Around 6000 fans found something better to do than come to Villa Park for one of the seasons major fixtures. I don't really need to add anything to that do I?
To go 4-5-1 at Villa Park - remember this used to be Fortress Villa Park - for whatever reason, (and fair enough, our problems in defence ARE good reason for concern) was a disgrace. To go one down to such a simple move from United and then have to watch as our manager failed to react was a sham. WHY once one down didn't he react and change to two up front? Even when we were losing, was the only purpose to prevent a cricket score in favour of Man Utd? If so, shame on you Mr O'Leary. For all the problems you have with Ellis and his constantly changing ideas, you should be able to set this small and honest squad up to at least have a go. Charlton attacked Utd and got something out of it, our players looked devoid of bite, spirit and ideas. That has to come from leadership. Neither O'Leary or Aitkin - hands tied re: transfers and injuries or not - offered that.
From where I sit right by the bench, it actually looked like O'Leary and Aitkin had had enough. They looked shattered, short on ideas and defeated. O'Leary's after match comments summed it up, he said we were 'outclassed and outplayed'. He also said he felt 'frustrated and helpless' and that he had 'no excuses'. You can't argue with any of those comments, especially when you look at the most damning statistic. Villa, at home, only had 43% of the possession. Click Here For Stats
I was sad enough to record the game off sky and watch parts of it on my return, the most telling was the comments from ex Arsenal, Spurs and Leeds manager George Graham, he said we were a 'nice' team. He was shocked that we didn't have the desire for the 50/50 tackles and that we only picked up 1 yellow card. That was despite the fact the midfield had been packed in order to block Manchester Utd.
We simply are not getting 'at' teams and putting in the tackles or passion. Yes, we got a point against Bolton, that was well earnt. The point against a poor performing Newcastle was welcome and the wins against dire Charlton and Sunderland teams was expected and very needed. BUT, Villa just are not doing it and you have to look at what the manager and his coaching staff are doing. His negative comments have now filtered onto the field and Villa are bang in trouble, especially when O'Leary and Aitkin, when interviewed, imply we play good attacking football.
I repeat, five across midfield at home, shame on you.
The highlights for Villa? Barry turned - from the edge of the box with his back to the goal - and shot just wide, a well constructed effort from out of nothing, a few inches the other way and van Der Sar was beaten. Then we hit the crossbar via a Baros header which resulted from an excellent Steven Davis cross field pass to Angel who teed up his fellow striker nicely. From my memory, that was about it.
Rooney looked class. I had to laugh at the heckles from the Villa crowd, because in six months time we will all be cheering him on as a national hero.
As old Greavsie once said, 'its a funny old game' although yesterday, sadly, the laughs were as empty and hollow as the ground became the longer the match went on.
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Date:Sunday December 18 2005
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