RUIN PARTY FOR FERGIE

Mcleish vows to put Man United ti­tle cel­e­bra­tions on hold

Midweek Sport - - THURSDAY APRIL 12 - By FRANK MCCAULEY

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.

At­ti­tude

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.

Check-up

“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

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