Wednesday’s Carling Cup defeat to Crystal Palace was both embarrassing and disappointing for Manchester United, as even with an under-strength side, United were expected to take care of business at home against the Championship side. But with a couple of exceptions, that under-strength side put in a poor performance, and credit to Palace, they came in with no fear, maintained that attitude for the 120 minutes, and fully deserved their reward.
But at the end of the day, there are bigger fish to fry for United, which is no disrespect to Palace, their win, or to the Carling Cup. Wednesday will see United take on FC Basel with their Champions League lives on the line, but before that crucial match in Switzerland, United are in the Midlands today, seeking an important three points at Aston Villa.
Last season, United took four of six points in their two league meetings with Villa, drawing 2-2 at Villa Park and winning 3-1 at home.
The away clash was goalless until a frantic and memorable final 20 minutes. Villa scored twice in five minutes to take a 2-0 lead with less than 15 minutes remaining, but United didn’t fold, and goals from Federico Macheda and Nemanja Vidic inside the final 10 minutes earned United a dramatic draw.
At Old Trafford, United had an easier time of it. Wayne Rooney scored twice in the first half to put United up 2-0 at the break, and Vidic put the result beyond doubt shortly after Darren Bent had pulled one back for Villa.
1. Villa sit 8th in the Premier League table coming into today, with 16 points from 13 matches.
Alex McLeish’s side leads the league in draws with seven and has only three wins thus far this season, with all three wins coming in their six home games.
Part of the reason for the high number of draws has been an inability to hold on from winning positions. Three times this season, Villa have had a second-half lead and went on to draw.
2. Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor are Aston Villa’s leading scorers with five goals apiece. Agbonlahor is also Villa’s leader in assists, with six.
However, Villa have struggled to score consistently this season, and overall, they have scored as many goals as they have points this season. Behind Bent and Agbonlahor, the next highest scorer is Stiliyan Petrov, who has two goals.
3. Villa haven’t gotten the contribution they might have expected from Charles N’Zogbia. Last season, N’Zogbia was brilliant for Wigan, but he hasn’t yet come close to repaying the £9.5m that Villa spent on him this past summer. In 12 games, N’Zogbia doesn’t have a single goal, and he has only one assist. He will be one to watch today though, because he could have that breakout performance at any time.
1. United haven’t lost a league match at Villa since a 3-1 defeat in August 1995. Since that time, United are 21-9-1 in the league against Villa, with the lone Villa win being their 1-0 win at Old Trafford in December 2009.
2. The man who’ll be the target of the most flashbulbs today will be Ashley Young, who will be making his return to Villa Park, where he starred for the last four-plus seasons before moving to United this past summer.
Young has been relatively quiet since making a flying start to his United career, so returning to his former stomping grounds could ignite a return to the form we saw early on.
3. A fine game for Young would be of great benefit to United, that’s for sure. United had no shortage of opportunities against Benfica and Newcastle, but many went by the wayside due to a poor delivery or attempt on goal. Create that many chances today and do a better job of making the most of them, and it’ll be a good day.
I haven’t been spot on with these lately, so…I’m not going to make one today.
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