Writer: J P Fear
Date:Saturday December 23 2006
Attendance: 42 550
Martin O'Neill said after the 3-0 loss to Manchester United this afternoon at a freezing Villa Park, that the first goal 'knocked the stuffing out of us.'
True, and in the second half Villa were stuffed like a turkey.
The day started off brilliantly, the appearance of Villa legend Ron Saunders set the tone for the fans and the atmosphere was buzzing. Villa came out of the blocks quickly and - yes you've guessed it - if not for poor finishing, could easily have made their early pressure pay.
Mellberg had reverted to the centre of defence with Gary Cahill preferred over Liam Ridgewell. Aaron Hughes was played on the right and Gareth Barry on the left. The midfield was made up of McCann who put in a great effort, Petrov who again was anonymous, Steven Davis and Craig Gardner. Up front we had Gabby playing virtually as a sole striker and Chris Sutton just behind.
Ok, I don't usually go into the who was where's in a match report as it is easy enough for you to see from the match stats: Click Here However, you compare our team to Manchester United's. First half we held our own but United were playing within themselves, I'm not saying if we were able to finish one of our good patches of play we'd not have worried them, but basically they had another gear to step into and so it proved in the second half.
Men against boys springs to mind.
Lets be fair, Rio Ferdinand is a world class defender, Ronaldo, Scholes and Giggs are world class midfielders and lets not even talk about Shrek being 'rested' on the bench.
We can't complain that when these players got their chances they took them, and to be fair you could do little but applaud the second goal by Scholes, it is was just pure quality, trust me, if you haven't seen it, watch it on the highlights, you won't see many better.
HOWEVER - yup, there is some bite coming, what you can complain at is the fact our strikers don't shoot. I don't care if it is Gabby (who looked totally isolated up there today, especially against the quality of Utds defence), Sutton, Angel or Baros, they are neither fish not foul if they don't shoot. Villa have had a habit for more seasons than I can remember of trying to walk the ball into the net. Sorry, it isn't going to happen. Then there was the midfield, in the first half they closed down the United players and McCann especially snapped at their heels very nicely. So what happened in the second half? We went to sleep, gave their players far too much time on the ball and we were punished.
O'Neill was totally right, the first goal knocked the stuffing out of us and that came from an attacking position for Villa where Aaron Hughes, who in my opinion was dire today, dawdled on the ball instead of passing forward, from there you just knew what was coming and the bright counter attack resulted in Ronaldo, the last man on the pitch you wanted to see score, converting an easy chance. How? HE SHOT THE FECKING BALL TOWARDS GOAL.
From there, Villa fell apart. They had to push forward to try to get something out of the game and obviously teams like Manchester United are more than able to allow opponents to come forward and then hit them on the break. Scholes goal was something special and the third was a simple tap in for Ronaldo, a man with more gel in his hair than is on sale in Sainsbury, that said the time I needed gel in my hair is a dim and distant memory........ ahhhhh, happy days.
This wasn't a wake up call in all honesty, because everyone at the club surely knows what has to be done? We are a million miles away from teams like United, although having said that, this was a poor Man Utd team when you compare them to teams of old. The likes of Fletcher and the awful Ji-Sung Park really aren't what you expect of them - sorry, I was talking as if I cared. Villa need quality additions, the board know that, the manager knows it, the players know it and the fans sure as heck know it. The days of a full Villa Park could easily be around the corner, but we need quality to do that. None of the lower league stuff, we need like the likes of Darren Bent, proven goalscorers not those that 'might' fit in. We need players to excite and players of a certain level, if not we'll continue to try to punch above our weight and the likes of Man Utd will continue to be a million miles away.
Lets hope January brings some cheer, as this is a mid table team and none of us want mid table, at least we now have a board who concur.
Our poll asked what the result would be, 31% said we'd win, 46% got it right with a loss and 23% predicted a draw.
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Date:Saturday December 23 2006
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