United v Villa - Talking To The Fear Itself!
It is Fear, possibly, that prevents Aston Villa from achieving anything against us since 1995, save a few draws. But there is a Fear of another kind: one which still retains hope of a Villa miracle at Old Trafford! This Fear is actually not very intimidating, rather an honest editor of Vital Villa site. And here's what he had to say after he had realised I had had the nerve to pester him with my questions.
1. What do you think of Villa's season so far; were the horrors of the last few weeks unexpected after months of brilliant form?
I think we've shocked a fair few people, especially ourselves! The away form has been sparkling let down only by a mixed and quite often dull home form. I'm slightly worried we've been 'sussed' now but hope we can give it one more push up to the end of the season. I am not sure the dip in form was totally unexpected, all teams go through these times and with the size of our squad I suppose in some ways it was going to happen at some point.
I've got really mixed feelings about the season, some say we've never had it so good. I'd agree with reference to all off pitch matters but we've had managers get us to 6th before and to 1st during a season even, it is where we finish at the end of this season which will show if we are progressing. Ok, if we get 5th we'll have had another season of improvement but there has to be some frustration along with that as we blew, sorry, WE didn't blow, Martin O'Neill blew the chance of European success and that has left a very bitter taste in SOME of our mouths (others are quite happy with what he did). We are told the money is there, the owner has no debt on the club and is willing to spend so you have to wonder why we entered a season without the right amount of numbers.
One thing that is lovely, is that we've at least been up there for a while - again - and reminded people that Villa is a big club and can compete. Villa were 2nd in the Premier League's first season seems a dim and distant memory but with the infrastructure now, we can get back up to competing for the PL, maybe not just yet but we are heading that way.
2. Do you still have a chance of landing that Holy Grail, the 4th place?
Yes, I don't rate our chances on Sunday just because of past history but hey, we've got to win one day. I was there last season though and it was a miserable affair, I don't see that we've improved that much - if at all - on the pitch so can't really see why things will be different this weekend - blimey that sounds negative! THE game of the season for us now has to be Everton at home. If we can beat them then there is no reason why we can't go on to beat all comers in the 6 games to follow (West Ham, Bolton, Hull City, Fulham, Middlesbrough and Newcastle). That said, we've got the same chance of just imploding but after such a valiant season I'm hoping we don't do that!
3. Neither side is in particularly scintillating form ahead of Sunday's clash: what do you think caused the slump of United and of Villa?
Maybe a bit of complacency for both teams and clubs? Maybe players thought they could take the foot off the pedal? Thing is, footie is a funny old game at the best of times. We totally battered Stoke at home, I'd seriously never seen such a one sided game and I've been going over 30 years BUT our players dozed off with 10 mins to go and hey ho, Stoke drew with us! I think MON has to take some of the blame with us. Yes, we've been up there and 4th with at one stage a chance of higher, but in my opinion he hasn't prepared the squad well enough despite having six transfer windows and plenty of money to spend. We are now looking to the summer for some major spending but it does look - unless we get 4th - we'll have a very high profile departure with Gareth Barry going. That would leave me gutted because he is a world class player, one of only two that we have, the other being Martin Laursen who would fit into any team in the world when fit.
I also think the manager halted the momentum resting players for the Moscow game that I would imagine most of our first teamers would have loved to have played in. They waited years to get into Europe then our manager decides they needed a rest despite the following week us having a break for the FA Cup weekend. Baffling and although no player dared say much about it, there can be no coincidence that Gareth Barry was quoted the same week saying he didn't feel at all tired or jaded.
4. Which Villa player is most likely to deliver the goods on Sunday? Who do you pin your hopes on?
Brad Friedel's red card being withdrawn helps, I have to be honest I was fearful of his understudy Brad Guzan having to face your forward line! Key players. Gareth Barry, he is the engine of the team, Ashley Young for his wizardry and John Carew if he is having one of the days where he is actually interested in playing for us. When the Big JC turns up, he is a handful, when little John arrives, it is like playing with 10 men.
5. Which United player are you most worried about? Or are you worried at all?
You have quality all over the field, no good trying to pretend otherwise. I must admit I like Tevez and can't see why he isn't played more and Ryan Giggs is just a premiership God as far as I'm concerned. He has graced the field for years and I love the professionalism of the lad. He has to rank in most fans top five all time PL players surely?
6. Who will win the league?
Manchester United despite the wobble.
7. And what will be the result on Sunday?
Well, last season I couldn't believe the body language of our guys, they'd lost before the took the field. I hope that isn't the case this year and I also hope a midfielder isn't put at right-back to be made to look stupid but I fear he will be. I can't see anything but a Manchester United win, I really do very rarely have no thoughts of a win for Villa but this weekend I just can't see it. My mate has been going to your gaff since 1985 season on season and has yet to see us win. I hope and pray we get a win one day purely for him and his dedication!
I'd be happy with a draw and if you are having an off day we might get that but if we could just win.........!!!!!!!!!!!!