Something For The Weekend (269)
As Cuellar's brilliantly placed header looped beyond van der Sar's groping mits and into United's net, it seemed the unlikely had become a strong possibility and I must admit that I instantly turned into a little piggy at the trough, as I dreamed of putting to rights too many hurts to be counted, as Villa made it six points out of six, for the season against United.
Alas, even after Nani left the field for his violent tackle on Petrov, it was not to be. No referee was going to send off a United player and then award the opposition a penalty, so Evans pulling down Carew, was never going to be punished. Ferguson just wouldn't stand for that.
There was a lot of waffle about how Villa should have torn Manchester United apart, when they went down to ten men but I was having none of it. When it comes to counter-attacking there are none better in the game, and as United proved against Arsenal they are quite capable of scoring the perfect break-away goal if you leave space behind and with Rooney enjoying the form of his life, Villa were very wise to settle for a point.
As can be witnessed with every interview, Martin O'Neill is carefully nurturing Villa's self-belief as they enter the last weeks before the final and that requires that they do not lose.
As it stands the psychology between the two clubs is just about right and I have little doubt that were Manchester United to arrive at Wembley like a wounded animal with a point or two to prove, Villa's prospects would be rather worse than how they stand at present; where United must deal with the fact that they have had difficulty scoring against Villa and big Daddy Friedel, always seems to be in the perfect position to make the goal look small and what should be difficult look routine.
In a matter of weeks, Villa have taken on England's best three goal-scorers, in Defoe, Crouch and Rooney; and have kept them all out.
Taking two points off Spurs was just as important as taking two off United, as Villa finished off, what looked like an incredibly taxing programme for January and early February. Once again we saw the value of this season's bigger squad, as Delph was drafted in against United and looked totally undaunted by his illustrious rivals. Even Sidwell got a run-out and Villa looked none the worse for it, as he replaced the battered Petrov.
So Villa are looking like the half-decent side, O'Neill keeps telling us they are and it seems that all they now lack is the £30m striker, in the mould of Torres, Drogba or Rooney to make them the real deal, as far as realistic top-four contenders.
Not until then can we tear the elite quartet's playhouse down but we sure can make it difficult for them.
For Villa the priority seems to have been to keep on hanging in there, and with Man City set to play Liverpool and Chelsea, in the next few weeks it looks like some high value chess pieces, might get put back in the box, as several highly rated teams get their credentials closely examined. With Everton looking back to something like their old form, it looks like they might have a big say in the way things pan out too. They looked tremendous against Chelsea, with only Moyes' churlish criticism of Saha being more memorable than the Frenchy's two goals.
With all this in mind, just hanging in there seems increasingly like a very decent game-plan for Villa.
In the meantime, Martin O'Neill's team must test their aching legs and the depth of their squad against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Sunday, for a place in the last eight. Palace are presently flirting with the relegation zone in the Championship but even if it is St Valentine's day, I do not expect an easy ride for Villa, let alone a massacre. Palace will be reliving their memories of beating Liverpool in 1990 and the famous Ian Wright final, so I expect they will play out of their skins, with Alan Pardew and at least one of the Wrights in the commentary box.
So definitely a test of mettle for Villa.
The Villa fans will be curious to see whether Carew is fit enough and forgiven enough to start the game, or whether Gabby has to spend the afternoon taking on the defensive multitudes, alone.
Vengeance is mine, said the bird.
Back on mount Olympus, England's World Cup prospects have taken a blow, as it looks like John Terry finally succumbed to the media pressure and no doubt quite a lot of stick from his Missus and has taken some compassionate leave. Big John makes an ideal villain because he's a bit flash with his dough and a bit white-trash with his attitude but as all blokes know, when a woman has an affair she is usually motivated by the desire to punish her partner rather than pounding lust and picking out the biggest baddest stud-muffin available, preferably an acquaintance of said partner, is usually the traditional modus operandi of the vengeful disaffected WAG. And normally, the gormless stud-muffin is led by his ego and his dong to fulfil his stud duties and complete the required public humiliation of the target.
Obviously the super-stud gets all the blame because as the guy said in the film The Go-Between: nothing is ever a Lady's fault.
The hilarious thing about the whole scandal is that the captain's armband has been handed to a guy whose playing history, usually requires the judicious use of the word allegedly, to avoid exciting his lawyers, while the next in line, was in court for punching a patron of a scouse hostelry because they disagreed about music.
So this latest attack of English prudery, seems as stupid as it is self-destructive.
No doubt the press have more stories to come, as they seek to scupper England's Word Cup campaign, for a few extra sales. But should England actually win, as unlikely as that might seem, John Terry may have the last laugh, as the same papers have to tell us what a great guy he is, as he is invited to the palace to receive his OBE.
Keep the faith!
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