RUIN PARTY FOR FERGIE
Mcleish vows to put Man United title celebrations on hold
ASTON VILLA boss Alex Mcleish is determined to try to wreck a potential Manchester United title party for his mentor Sir Alex Ferguson on Sunday.
United are eight points clear at the top of the Premier League and could seal their 20th top-flight championship against Villa if results go their way before the clash at Old Trafford.
But Mcleish, who played under Ferguson at Aberdeen, would relish such a challenge – even though his young Villa side are currently lacking seven senior players through injuries and illness.
“Can I spoil the United party? I have done it before with Motherwell when we played Rangers,” said Mcleish.
“They had the carnival ready to go. Motherwell won that day 2-0 with two goals from Owen Coyle.”
But Mcleish knows it is unrealistic to expect any complacency from United.
He said: “I know Sir Alex would never allow that to happen. We know we would face a rampant United side, but you never know what can happen.”
Villa moved seven points clear of the bottom three after Monday’s 1-1 home draw with Stoke.
But Mcleish will not relax or allow the crop of youngsters he is blooding to drop their standards.
He said: “I am not going to rest. I’m not going to go home and think, ‘That’s fine, there’s daylight here’.
“We have to keep them on their toes and keep them at a good level.
“There were seven academy guys out there against Stoke. They gave everything and have a fantastic attitude.
“They are trying to make their names at Aston Villa and show they can play at the club for as long as possible.
“We are obviously trying to get to a position where we can look towards next season.
“We have the games to do it and the points to do it. There’s no shortage of effort.
“We’ve gained some ground and it followed on from a good point at Liverpool – but it is still a cup final every week.”
While Mcleish takes great heart from the performance of the young players, he is also quick to praise the contribution of experienced centre-back James Collins.
The Wales international has stepped up to his best form in recent weeks during the absence of Richard Dunne and Carlos Cuellar through injury.
Mcleish said: “Big James has been very strong and has read things well.
“His heading has been dominant and his consistency has been really excellent.
“He has stepped up with the young players in the team, helping them through it. He has thrived on the extra responsibility.”
Villa are awaiting an injury update on midfielders Chris Herd (head) and Stephen Warnock (ankle) after both were substituted against Stoke.
Mcleish added: “Herd went to hospital for a check-up after the game. He had a head knock, he wasn’t unconscious so we’re hopeful there’s no concussion.
“Warnock went over on his ankle, landed badly and he will have a scan and X-rays.”
YOUNG GUNS: Andreas Weimann and Barry Bannan
are impressing for Villa
WISE OLD HEAD: James Collins is a big
player for Mcleish