Something For The Weekend (265)
Okay, so my dancing wasn't quite as good as Jennifer Beals' or her stand-in and lets be honest, these days, in the buns-of-steel department, I am not quite what I was but nothing was going to stop me from tripping the light fantastic, cutting the rug, or strutting my stuff, when that final whistle went at Old Trafford, last weekend.
If you take Gene Kelly, Max Wall, Angus Young and John Travolta, you might come somewhere near, but have no doubt about it, that result shook me all week long.
Here's Angus and Co with some girls:
It was a very decent performance by the Villa team and Martin O'Neill (more on Mart later) but the man of the match was definitely the referee Martin Atkinson (no relation, I hope) because while Richard Dunne stood strong and Petrov marshalled the midfield, it was Atkinson who ultimately was the difference between another dose of the same-old-same-old - 'we woz robbed' scenario.
We had seen Rooney do his little trick at Portsmouth. He had pushed the ball past a defender and then just hooked his in-step around the leg of his unfortunate patsy, went down and converted the penalty. Job done and the floodgates opened, as he notched his hattrick and United successfully buried the cynical manoeuvre with another three goals.
So why not try it again - get an early advantage destroy the oppositions belief - job done.
Its typical of the sort of cheating which produced a rolling of the eyes and a rye smile, when we heard the chorus of outrage from football commentators and pundits, which prompted Eduardo-gate , who we know ignore this sort of sly manipulation, just about every other game.
Of course, United's advantage is only in the region of 10-15% and so is always deniable, as Villa found out for the rest of the game, when United enjoyed their usual advantage in terms of the rub of the green and fifty-fifty challenges.
The foul on Carew, late in the game, and ignored by the referee was a reminder of what Villa were up against.
By the time Ferguson's demand for more time had been turned down and the final whistle had blown, the unbelievable had become a reality.
It was everything we wanted - a fine goal from Gabby and a solid defensive display but it got better. It was after the final whistle had gone that Villa and Martin O'Neill really showed their class and instead of what would have been understandable triumphalism and braggadocio, the Villa manager showed total respect for United and rather than prompt his boys to get carried away, with their remarkable long-overdue achievement, he simply said, that until Villa had won as many games as United, they had nothing to boast about.
On reflection, this seemed to be the whole theme of the game, and even Gabby's goal-celebration seemed subdued. It was as if O'Neill had told his players not to be surprised if they won and not to make a triumph any sort of climax to the season in their minds. It was a reminder of that old coach's saying about not making yourself a stranger to your best form, or build it up to something which you find difficult to replicate.
Or, as Danny Blanchflower once said: we never got too excited about scoring because we expected to score.
I think I enjoyed a greater respect and understanding for Martin O'Neill, in the few moments of his after-match interview, than would have been possible from any amount of other information. I saw the real man in a Blink.
The nearer Villa's match with Sunderland came the more I was anxious to see if there was going to be an anti-climactic tail-off, but as we know, it did not happen.
The stats for the game, as regards passing, possession and the rest of the stuff, showed no great shakes from Villa. This came as a great surprise for some fans as they naturally assumed that unless Villa might be mistaken for Barcelona or even Spain, then they found it hard to make the case that their team had made any progress. But despite what the stats say, as soon as Stewart Downing hit the woodwork in the opening minutes, it seemed obvious that Villa carry a far greater threat these days, now that Young, Milner and Downing offer options which cannot simply be nullified by double-marking the wide men.
By the time Milner had settled matters with a stunning 25-yard rocket into the top-corner and Cana had been sent-off for up-ending him, it seemed certain where Sunderland thought that threat was coming from. Add in Heskey's second goal in a couple of games and it began to look like many players were enjoying a little bit more space than hitherto.
Steve Bruce had nothing to complain about as regards his team's performance, as they were always in with a shout, but in the end, it was Villa's better quality, augmented with goodly amounts of grit and determination, which earned them three points in what seemed to be a very equally matched game.
Typically Villa must now face the team which was their undoing last year, when after leading two-nil in the corresponding fixture, they slipped to a two-two draw and their season-end troubles began.
No doubt Martin and his men will want to put that right against Stoke on Saturday, but with the Villa fans' praises ringing in the team's ears and a dizzying week in the top-four, by way of distraction, Tony Pulis's
men will be expected to make it difficult for Villa, or face the stinging lash of their manager's wet towel in the shower, followed by a bout of nude wrestling.
The Villa fans just expect a demonstration of their team's professional qualities and further proof, that they don't look out of place in the top-four.
With temperatures guaranteed to chill parts which are much better being left unchilled, the main thing is that Villa prove that the fans' afternoon excursion, justifies their decision to avoid the seasonal delights of Christmas shopping.
Which is bound to include time looking at shoes: we need free time.
Keep the faith!
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