Date:Monday December 16 2013
Attendance: 42 682
Aston Villa v Manchester United
A glory hunting, armchair loving mate of mine commented that this is the best time to play United, a team we have not beaten at Villa Park since 1995. Indeed, the last time the Lions beat the Red Devils at B6, Blur were riding high in the charts with 'Country House.' 18 years and counting and we're apparently in with a shot after some some narrow, recent defeats, including last seasons 2-3 loss, having led 2-0 early on. Manure may have picked up two points from the last four games but they will still fancy this, even with RVP sidelined for a month with a thigh injury. We have some absentees of our own of course, with Vlaar and Delph both out, both key men in our line-up.
We find ourselves on the 12:21 to Aston: a three coach, sardine can affair that offers standing room only. It beggars belief. London Midland, on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, with Villa hosting Manure at Villa park, opt for a half-hourly service with limited room. By the time the train crawls to Selly Oak there is no room, with scores of people left standing on the platform. The rain is also coming down in buckets.
Team news comes in on Twatter. It's a more balanced line-up: Luna, Baker, Clark and Lowton line up in front of Guzan with Albrighton making his first league start of the campaign, joining El Ahmadi, Sylla and Westwood across the middle. 300th appearance man and captain of the day Agbonlahor, joins Benteke up top.
It's straight to the seats at the ground. It's nice to be back at Villa Park, even if it is a house-of-cards these days; It's also nice not to have to go that far and sit with a familiar crowd, though faces that I have never seen before have silently popped up in the seats around us. Poker faced, with camera phones at the ready, they are here for United. I give the bloke two seats down the evil eyeballs. I am 6'3 16 stone, wet cold, with a lingering virus and I have travelled hundreds of miles these last two weeks to watch my team. I have put my money where my mouth is, and now here you are in all your zipped up casual, 'Brummy Red' stupidity. I rise above it, aggrieved.
Last week was an utter horror show. Paul Lambert did himself no favours with his tactical mind bend, befuddling a team already prone to errors. I'm hoping for something a bit more solid today; more organised.
We start brightly. In fact this is the best we have started in some time. United are nervy and we are at them in numbers. Super Marc Albrighton makes the best of it with two ranged shots though De Gea sweeps up. We keep the pressure on. Some more United fans come in to the Holte End. They are all casually dressed and have no idea where they are sitting or if they are even in the right block. Obviously, none of them are from Manchester. One peep and there will be an absolute ding-dong in here. So far they are all button lipped though we know who they are.
Here come United on the break. That's an exquisite cross field ball to da Silva. Luna has left a battlefield worth of space behind him and has been caught napping. The ball comes in... and it's an unmarked Adnan Januzaj with the power header... its off the post but Welbeck is there on the rebound. They have cut us to ribbons with a lethal counter, with shoddy defending helping it along. On 15' minutes its Aston Villa 0-1 Manchester United.
Lee Mason blows for the restart. We look shell shocked. For the first time in ages we have started brightly, taking the game to United though we have been caught on the counter; played at what is usually our own game. The ball pings around midfield, comes back to Bakesy who.... oh, my he's just given that straight to United. It's a 10-12 yard ground pass and he's given away possession, with United now streaming at him, out of midfield. Welbeck passes wide to the quick footed Valencia who spins it back into the mix.... and it's Welbeck sliding in for the return, slamming the ball into the roof of the Holte End net. Bish Bash Bosh. On 18' minutes, courtesy of clown football from Nathan Baker, it's Aston Villa 0-2 Manchester United.
There is no excuse for that at this level. That is pure incompetence born out of a lack of composure and focus. If Herd had not picked up a facial injury Baker would have been benched but, with Vlaar out and Okore long-term injured, we have no one - and now he is holding his hamstring. Please! Credit to Welbeck though. That was, lethal punishing play with no quarter given. The Grizzly head is definitely in the Grizzly hands.
United have come to life. Rooney is now playing some real Hollywood balls. They no where to hurt us, United. It's inside left. Valencia is on the chalk with Welbeck running the channel. Baker looks panicked and Luna is loathe to make a challenge. Sylla is also giving the ball away for fun, which is not helping. El Ahmadi seems the most composed and ready to take it forward but here come United again. It's another one-two between Valencia and Welbeck. He cuts past Baker though we close him down this time.
We are like butter on the left side of defence. Luna is struggling to read the play in a manner that is reminiscent of Joe Bennett. The Clash ring out in my head: "Shall I stay or Should I go... this indecision's bugging me." United come forward still. It's Valencia again... he sets up Rooney …. but it's wide. The Ecuadorian is putting Luna to the sword here. Red carpet, champagne reception anyone? I am screaming for someone somewhere to sort it the **** out. Does anybody here me? No? Oh, hold on, here come United once more... Welbck breaks out of midfield, burns past Baker, who shows too early... Welbeck for United's third...on the angle.... no, it's gone just wide of the far post. On another day it's 0-5 United.
At half-time we opt to stay in our seats. I am too annoyed to move. The United fan a few seats down catches my eye. An unspoken glaring competition ensues over the top of the Mrs' lovely blond head. He eventually shuffles out of the row. No, he's clambering down the seats...moving quicker now. A woman coming back up the steps from the concourse points out some United fans and gives it them both barrels. They shuffle off as well. None of them come back after half-time.
We start the second half with renewed impetus. Marc Albrighton has been our best player today. He comes down the United left, cuts round Evra then swings one in....headed wide by Sylla.
De Gea sends it up and it pings around midfield again. It comes back to Benteke who holds it up, though he loses control. Again, the Belgian is a shadow of a shadow and should have been replaced by Kozak at half-time. A sad site. We lose the ball owing to some sloppy play. We've given possession away again! The ball comes over to Rooney on the right. No pressure from Luna as yet. Welbeck makes another run as Cleverly sprints in. Hilarious. It makes it impossible for the defence when there's runners in front and behind with no midfield protection or cover. The Villa midfield don't read the play quick enough, which leads to last-gasp reactions across the middle, with no one wanting to take responsibility. Sylla looks like he's jogging. Rooney plays a perfectly weighted ball for Cleverly, who is past Baker and..... it's there at the near post. Truly abysmal. On 52' minutes it's Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United.
Spirits are momentarily lifted with a Holte End rendition of: "Your train is on time, Your train is on time, **** off to Euston, Your train is on time." That's as good as it gets because out on the pitch we are now huffing and puffing, hitting balls for Agbonlahor, though United are happy to sit and suck it up. We are struggling to create a single break through chance. Through ball anyone? No?
A speculative ball goes lopping over. Agbonlahor chases. De Gea comes across to shepherd it out...but Agbonlahor is there just in time. The ball comes off De Gea who messes up. Corner ball. De Gea and Agbonlahor then get into handbags on the goal line. It's all De Gea, though referee Mason is happy to give yellow cards to both, which means Agbonlahor will miss the next game. A cracking afternoon all round.
The disappointing and rather dreadful Sylla is replaced by Weimann on 62' minutes. The Austrian hitman maybe firing blanks of late yet he does bring endeavour and industry. Benteke is then thankfully replaced by Kozak on 79' minutes. Another poor performance from a player who has tragically not only lost his way but wants it on a plate as well. Have a word.
On 85' minutes the Mrs and I then do something that we have never done before: we leave the ground early. We have had enough. It's time to get a train home whilst we can. [Bacuna was to replace El Ahmadi on 86' minutes]. On full time Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United.
Another packed train home. As I check the table I am amazed that we are still mid-table, in 11th though we are now at something of a crossroads with the January window approaching and four very winnable games in our sights. Stoke (A) Crystal Palace(H) Swansea (H) and Sunderland(A) on New years Day. All in all,12 massive points at stake. Lose at Stoke next Saturday and things could tighten up in the bottom half considerably, though there are some favourable fixtures next week, with Fulham hosting City, Liverpool hosting Cardiff, and Man Utd at home to West Ham. Sunderland play Norwich with West Brom at home to Hull, so there is no time like the present to capitalise and make hay. We went six unbeaten with a killer win away at Saints only to come off the rails at Fulham. We must now get back on track.
The afternoon finishes with a little plus note: Spurs are hammered at home by Liverpool 0-5. They didn't even have a shot on goal. £100m spent and they are 6 points ahead of us with Southampton waiting round the corner in 8th. I watch the second half with glee. In a weekend of big scores or manager sackings the kaleidoscope that is a post-Fergie Barclays Premier League rolls on. Anything can happen. Next up Stoke.
See you all there!
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Date:Monday December 16 2013
|1.||Pride of Lions||1099|
|6.||Villan Of The North||275|
|Crystal Palace||1||-||0||Aston Villa|
|Man Utd||4||-||1||Aston Villa|
|12. West Ham||35||10||7||18||-10||37|
|14. Hull City||34||10||6||18||-9||36|
|15. Aston Villa||34||9||8||17||-14||35|
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