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Manchester United 0 Aston Villa 1

December 13, 2009

Manchester United 0 Aston Villa 1

Agbonlahor 21

Old Trafford

12/12/09

Richard Dunne was excellent all afternoon - manutd.com

Aston Villa finally inflicted a league defeat on champions Manchester United yesterday – Villa’s first over United since the opening day of the 1995/6 season.*

On that day Villa Park was treated to an unusual United side, resplendent in a grey kit later to cause so much hassle**, featuring youngsters Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers. John O’ Kane and David Beckham came on (the latter scoring a consolation goal in a 3-1 defeat). Alex Ferguson had sold regulars Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis that summer – the day is best remembered for Alan Hansen’s Match of the Day comments that evening (“You’ll win nothing with kids”). The side went on to win the league title and the FA Cup.

14 years later, Villa have recorded their next league win. Martin O’ Neill is building an impressive squad and with United’s defensive problems the tactic was always likely to involve wingers Milner and Young whipping balls across the box for strikers Agbonlahor, Carew and Heskey to threaten. In the end United’s defence was less makeshift than expected: only Darren Fletcher, at right back, was being asked to play out of his normal position.

Gabriel Agbonlahor scores for Villa at Old Trafford - BBC

Yet the first-half goal came from a cross: Agbonlahor laid the ball off on the left, then left Carrick standing as he raced towards goal. Ashley Young’s cross was excellent and Agbonlahor, who had got behind Brown, nodded home simply.

United failed to respond adequately and, though they created a handful of chances and probably deserved at least a point, never besieged the Villa box as expected. Wayne Rooney was excellent in the first half – save for a dive which gained him a deserved booking – and woeful in the second; every pass was weighted badly and his shots tame. Owen and Berbatov came on, and the Bulgarian unusually missed a volley from point-blank range. He went close later, as did Michael Carrick, but Villa held on.

The side has looked more dangerous as the season has progressed: Stilyan Petrov is performing well in midfield, both combative and creative, while Manchester City’s decision to sell Richard Dunne and upgrade to Joleon Lescott is looking more foolish every match. Dunne was excellent alongside Carlos Cuellar yesterday and few teams will win headers against Villa’s back line.

Agbonlahor leads the line fantastically, and can play with Heskey or Carew, and in Young and Milner O’ Neill has the best wing pairing in the league – both have pace and accurate crosses, and both score goals. Villa have beaten United, Chelsea and Liverpool this season and move up to third. Few would bet against them staying there.

*Not their first league victory over United home or away since 1983 as the BBC website reports today – that refers to the last time they won in the league at Old Trafford.

**United changed their grey kit to blue-and-white stripes at half-time when 3-0 down against Southampton at the Dell. The players apparently couldn’t see each other in the sunshine. Perhaps that was why they lost at Villa Park?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 13, 2009 1:11 pm

    Great report, once again Ben!
    Nostalgic and detailed.

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