aston villa vs Man united
Villa may have snapped a five-match win-less streak but the Red Devils will present a tougher challenge on Saturday.
A Midlands visit will provide a stern test for the Red Devils.
ALTHOUGH Manchester United preserved their unbeaten league record, one is inclined to think that Sir Alex Ferguson viewed the mid-week derby as a case of two points lost.
Despite injury concerns and a nagging bout of influenza, the Red Devils fielded their first team, bested City in possession and had more shots at goal. However, the win proved to be too elusive and a slim Chelsea victory opened up a four-point gap between the BPL’s top two clubs.
Although it is still early days in the season, the present situation is quite a perplexing one for United. They have recorded six draws so far – half of their total league games – and such a statistic would be unthinkable in seasons past.
At this stage last season, United were scoring goals for fun, unlocking the tightest defences. Granted, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez have stepped up to the plate but their efforts are not the answer to United’s problems.
It is a fully fit – and committed – Rooney that United miss and until he rediscovers the form that made him the reigning PFA footballer-of-the-year, the Red Devils will struggle to deliver. And the heroics of various players merely paper up the cracks at the moment.
A good example would be Park Ji-Sung who grabbed the plaudits last week for a brace against Wolves. Granted, Three Lung Park is industry personified but he remains an unlikely hero. He is only in the side to play a specific role, no more.
It is a tougher call as far as Berbatov is concerned. Having added the labour of love to his languid genius, the Bulgarian is clearly a more effective United player than he ever was. Blessed with impeccable technique, Berba filled the void left by Rooney earlier in the season.
However, the fire seems to have cooled and Berba has fired blanks ever since the Liverpool game – a match where he was simply immaculate. A work in regress perhaps but until a fit-again Rooney returns, the Bulgarian remains United’s best bet.
Javier Hernandez may be the best Mexican striker since Hugo Sanchez hung up his boots but he needs to score a lot more before he can achieve cult status. Dislodging Michael Owen in the pecking order is one thing; doing the same to Rooney – or Berbatov – is quite another.
And Chicarito might have to be satisfied with a cameo from the bench on Saturday as Sir Shrek should make his long-awaited return. That’s right. Rooney is done nursing his injury – and rethinking his soap opera life – in Portland and he will be back in the reckoning for United.
If his personal history is anything to go by,
Aston Villa’s manager Gerard Houllier, left, talks to his assistant Gary McAllister about turning the screws on the Red Devils. Both former Liverpool men know all about Fergie’s team. Rooney must be incensed by his long spell on the sidelines – and the subsequent boot camp. The trick now is for him to translate his anger into positive action on the pitch and if he does, hell could break loose at Villa Park.
His tally of 34 goals last season serve a grim reminder of what a driven Rooney can do and United fans can only await his return with bated breath. Having recommitted his future to United, Rooney is aware that he needs to win back the hearts of the Old Trafford faithful after his brief City dalliance.
And there is no better way to do so than by returning to what he does best – scoring for fun. His spiral of decline spanned seven months but if all will be forgotten if he rediscovers his old form. Wayne’s World returns this Saturday and this particular episode could be kaleidoscopic. Watch this space.
To ensure Rooney and gang get a steady supply of through balls, Sir Alex could opt for a more attacking midfield than the threedefensive midfielder strategy he deployed against an equally unadventurous City.
Well, he has to make changes as Paul Scholes is suspended after he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season for roughing up James Milner one time too many. Rafael da Silva could also miss the match after picking up a thigh strain in the derby.
However, all this is scant consolation for Villa who are not given much of a chance, or a prayer. Prior to their 3-2 win over Blackpool, the Villains had not picked up a win in five games. And to make matters worse, pundits are writing off their last victory as Blackpool fielded a weakened side – containing 10 changes from the side which drew 2-2 with Everton.
Even worse, Blackpool came so close to getting a share of the spoils before James Collins last-gasp winner. The three points were much needed but after such a barren run, it would take a brave man to bet on Gerard Houllier’s boys on Saturday.
Houllier’s war of words with John Carew has not helped matters. The pair really had a go at each other and although a truce has been called, the politically correct settlement only serves as tabloid fodder. Squad harmony is questionable at Villa and a house divided cannot stand – especially against rampant Devils.
Perhaps it’s for the better than Carew will miss Saturday’s game. Sidelined with a torn calf muscle, the Norwegian forward has not found the net in eight appearances this season and more profligacy in front of goal will not help the Villa cause.
That responsibility should rest on the shoulders of Gabriel Agbonlahor who should reclaim his place in the starting eleven at Nathan Delfouneso’s expense. Having missed five matches, Agbonlahor made his return as a sub against Blackpool and he will be raring to re-establish the telepathic understanding he shared with Ashley Young and Stewart Downing.
But unless that happens in double quick time, United will not be too worried and Sir Alex will be quietly confident of his side’s chances. The return of the “big man” is nigh and if Rooney rediscovers his old form, the angels will shy away from Villa Park this Saturday.
Let’s Kop ‘em: