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Man United held by ten man Villa.

Aston Villa1 Manchester United 1

Villa Park is a stadium which holds fond memories for the United team and the fans. Throughout our history it has been a happy hunting ground, as we have enjoyed many glorious matches there. Who can forget the scenes that followed the ‘goal of the century’ by Ryan Giggs in the FA Cup semi final replay against Arsenal in 1999, on the way to the historic ‘treble’

You have to go all the back to the opening day of the 1995-96 season, for the last time Villa won against United at home. That day Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, featuring youngsters such as Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and David Beckham, went down 3-1 in a result which prompted BBC pundit Alan Hansen to famously utter this classic comment: “You don’t win anything with kids.” How wrong he was proved to be.

The Manchester United team news, which didn’t include any kids, had Louis van Gaal giving a start to Falcao up front, but more surprising was the choice of Darren Fletcher in midfield. This was due to undisclosed illnesses to Fellaini and Herrera.

Michael Carrick started the match in the middle of a back three along with Jonny Evans and Phil Jones in front of recent hero David de Gea. Then there was Young and Valencia out wide with Fletcher and Rooney in the middle, Mata sat in the hole behind the strikers Falcao and Robin van Persie. On the bench were two players coming back from injury Angel Di Maria and Da Silva.

United enjoyed the majority of possession in the early exchanges without creating any clear chances, but unfortunately Villa took the lead on 17 minutes, when from a free kick Benteke chested down in the penalty area, then without a serious challenge from the United defence, shimmied and curled a left footed shot across three United players and past de Gea, who to be fair didn’t stand a chance. A goal against the run of play, but a warning that this wasn’t going to go all United’s way.

Villa showed that they had the pace up front to worry the United defenders and on one such break their forwards were bearing down on goal, but without a brilliant tackle from Jonny Evans it could have been a lot worse for United.

On the half hour, Young nearly shoved the boos back down the Villans throats, when his curling shot come cross almost sneaked in at the far post if it hadn’t been for Villa keeper Guzan managing to palm it to safety.

United’s attacking play cried out for some invention as it was all so predictable, lots of the ball but no imagination, it was crying out for someone to work some magic. Sadly not many magicians were on show.

Falcao’s first chance came on 23 minutes when he was played through by van Persie, in the end he shot tamely under pressure. The best play was coming from United’s right flank via Valencia, but the Villa defence dealt with any crosses that came over. It was a poor first 45 minutes for the Red Devils, and even though they had the ball in dangerous areas they had nothing to show for it.

At the start of the second half it was no great surprise to see van Gaal make a change by bringing on Tyler Blackett for Fletcher. This meant that Carrick moved up into his preferred midfield role.
Right from the off the United back three, without Carrick marshaling them, were in trouble as the trio of Blackett, Jones and Evans struggled to deal with Benteke, Jones just managing to block his shot. From the resulting corner de Gea made an important tip over from a Benteke header.

On the 50th minute van Persie forced a save from Guzan as United tried to convert their chances. The main objective, apart from equalising, was to keep the ball away from United’s defence.

The pressure paid off in the 53rd minute when Young made a surge down the left and delivered a superb pinpoint cross, a cross which Falcao met with his head to give the keeper no chance. In a rare show of emotion van Gaal punched the air with delight as Falcao raced to share his joy with the away fans. After the equaliser came a push by United to find a quick goal and van Persie came closest with an overhead attempt.

On the hour mark came United’s second substitution with Di Maria, making his return from injury, replacing van Persie. Straight away Di Maria was pressing forward and had three rather tame shots on goal, unfortunately all were easily dealt with by Guzan in the Villa goal.

Then on 64 minutes the match heated up as Agbonlahor was red carded for a foul on Young. He had a case for protesting as the replays showed it was a 50/50 challenge, but the referee decided he had gone over the top on Young. This not only left Villa down to ten men, but the boos for Young reached new decibels every time he touched the ball.

The 73rd minute saw another change as James Wilson was brought on for Antonio Valencia. Young was switched to the right and Di Maria patrolled the left wing. A decision I didn’t understand as the balance of the team would have been better served with Valencia staying on as he had been performing well down the right flank. In contrast to Young who was having a torrid time with the Villa fans, and to take him out of that atmosphere would have made sense. This was proven by the numerous opportunities he had to put in crosses from the right wing, but his deliveries on many attempts were below standard compared to his cross for Falcao’s goal.

United had a flurry of corners and saw one cause confusion in the Villa box, but Falcao just couldn’t reach the ball in time before it was put out of play by the Villa defence. Towards the end of the match Villa came the closest to snatching the winner with a strike from Bacuna that just flew over a relieved de Gea’s crossbar. At the other end Wilson had a lovely effort in the last minute but it lacked any power, how sweet that would have been for the youngster to grab the winner and the headlines.

Once again United toiled in a game that they should have won fairly easily bearing in mind Villa’s injury list, and the fact that they were playing against ten men for the last twenty minutes. Only getting into their groove after the half time change, which saw Fletcher depart and Carrick moved into the middle. Carrick showing once again how brilliant the new vice captain has been since returning from injury. He adapted so easily to the change in the system during the match. It’s no great surprise that the team has still not lost this season when he has been in the side.

Darren Fletcher looked out of sorts in the middle of the park. and he didn’t help himself by giving away the free kick that led to the Villa opener. Having been stripped of the vice captaincy in favour of Carrick you have to wonder how he fits into van Gaal’s future plans, if at all. He only started the match as both Fellaini and Herrera were not well enough to play. Fletcher has given the club great service over the last ten or so seasons, and has overcome a serious illness to get back into the team; however, in all fairness to him, if all the midfielders were fit he probably wouldn’t get a look in.

This was a case of two points dropped at the end of the day. A few months ago I never thought I would be saying this, but our midfield missed Fellaini’s presence, and I thought Mata had his first poor match for a while. Having said all that, after six straight wins, a draw away from home is not the end of the world, and compared to when things were not going United’s way at the beginning of the season this has been a good few weeks for the red devils. We are now unbeaten in the last seven games. The team, under van Gaal’s leadership, is still moving in the right direction and remain in third place.

Next up is the visit to Old Trafford of Newcastle United on Boxing day quickly followed two days later by United’s last match of 2014, an away trip to the capital to take on Spurs. I fully expect United to end the year with two more wins that will send us flying into 2015.

I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and thanks for all your continued support by reading my pages.

Miles Dunton.


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Players that have been Devils & Villans.

With Manchester United playing Aston Villa at Villa Park this Saturday, I thought I would take a look at the players who have turned out for both teams ahead of this weekend’s clash.
Jimmy Rimmer.
Manchester United: 1965–1974 App: 45 (1 sub)
A Lancashire lad, Rimmer joined Manchester United as a schoolboy in 1963, turning professional two years later. He spent eleven years at Old Trafford, chiefly as Alex Stepney’s understudy. He was a substitute in the 1968 European Cup final and received a winners medal despite not getting on the pitch.
With Stepney ruling between the sticks. Rimmer only managed to play 46 times for United in total. In 1973 he went to Swansea City on loan and impressed as first-team goalkeeper, enough that Arsenal signed him from United in February 1974, eyeing him as a long-term replacement for Bob Wilson. He stayed until 1977 when he enjoyed a spell of six years at Aston Villa.
In 1982 Villa reached the European Cup final, but Rimmer was injured after only nine minutes and had to be replaced by the young Nigel Spink. However, Villa beat Bayern Munich 1-0, meaning Rimmer became the second player in history to get a European Cup winners’ medal at two different clubs, despite the fact that he only played in one match.
Paul McGrath.
Sport, Football, League Division One, 31st August 1987, Manchester United 3 v Chelsea 1, Manchester United's Paul McGrath
Manchester United: 1982–1989 App: 192 (7 sub)
McGrath moved to Manchester United in 1982 when Ron Atkinson was the manager of United. In his formative years he was used in midfield but as time progressed he became a standout center half. He won the FA Cup in 1985 when United defeated Everton at Wembley and was even named man of the match, a match that was remembered for the first red card in an FA Cup final with the sending off of his defensive partner Kevin Moran.
When Alex Ferguson took over from Atkinson in 1986 the drinking culture began to rear it’s head, at the center was McGrath, and that’s when things began to take a turn for the worse. McGrath, due to chronic knee problems and alcohol addiction, was offered retirement along with a testimonial, and a substantial financial package by a frustrated Ferguson, as the manager believed that McGrath’s best days were past. In the end Aston Villa bought him for £400,000 in 1989.
McGrath went on to play for the Villans until 1996, making over 250 appearances, and The Republic of Ireland, in which time he cemented his place as one of the finest center half’s in the country.
Dion Dublin.
Manchester United: 1992–1994 App: 6 (11 Sub)
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson bought Dublin for £1 million on 7 August 1992, fighting off competition from Chelsea and Everton. Dublin was something of a surprise purchase for United, after Ferguson had tried to sign Alan Shearer from Southampton but lost out to Blackburn Rovers.
He must be one of the unluckiest players because after hitting the highs of scoring a last minute winner in United’s first Premier league victory against Southampton at The Dell, his world came tumbling back to earth, as he suffered a broken leg against Crystal Palace in a 1–0 win at Old Trafford, which meant he missed the next six months.
In his injury absence Fergie bought Eric Cantona and the rest as they say is history. And it was history for Dublin as United won the league that season for the first time since 1967. He failed to make the 10 Premier League appearances required to automatically gain a title winner’s medal. However, he was given a medal as a result of special dispensation from the Premier League, meaning the late goalkeeper Les Sealey was the only major first team player not to get a medal.
The following season after only making a handful of appearances he was sold to Coventry City for £2 million pounds doubling the amount United had paid for him. He later joined Villa in 1998 and stayed there for six years.
Peter Schmeichel.
Manchester United: 1991–1999 App: 398
Bought by Ferguson for an absolute bargain at only £500,000 the great Dane won everything possible at United including five FA Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. No wonder Alex Ferguson described his purchase of Schmeichel as the “bargain of the century.”
Named the World’s Best Goalkeeper in 1992 and 1993. The season United won the inargrul Premier League in 1993, he kept 22 clean sheets. He rapidly built a solid defensive unit with Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister as his two center backs. His huge frame intimidated strikers as they would try and shoot past him only to see the way blocked by him making himself as large as possible, looking like a huge starfish, to block their attempts.
Schmeichel ended his Manchester United career on the highest note possible, when he and United won the Treble, the FA Premier League title, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, in the same season. He captained the side in the absence of suspended Roy Keane in the Champions League final, which happened to be his last match as a United player. So important was he to United that they struggled to find a worthy successor until the signing of David de Gea more than a decade later. Schmeichel left United to ply his trade in Portugal with Sporting but returned to the Premier League with Aston Villa in 2001 for a season.
Eric Djemba-Djemba.
Manchester United: 2003-2005 App: 27 (sub 12)
The player who was so good they had to name him twice. Djemba-Djemba rose to prominence with Nantes in France. His impressive performances as a feisty and uncompromising tackler for the French club earned him a dream move to Manchester United for £3.5 million in the summer of 2003, signed by Alex Ferguson as a possible eventual successor to the 31-year-old Roy Keane. But in his 18 months at Old Trafford, Djemba-Djemba found it difficult to maintain a period of form, and he was eventually unable to establish himself as a player capable of cleaning, let alone filling, captain Roy Keane’s boots.
Out of all Fergie’s signings this is one that really fell flat on it’s face, and he and the fans were put out of their misery in 2005 when he was sold to Aston Villa for half of what United had paid. He stayed at Villa until 2007.
Dwight Yorke.
Manchester United: 1998-2002 App: 120 (sub 32)
With a smile as wide as the ship canal, and a personality to match, Yorke arrived at Old Trafford in August 1998 from Aston Villa for £12.6 million. At Villa he was a firm fans favourite for his goal exploits. So you can imagine their displeasure when Alex Ferguson came a knocking. The Villa manager at the time was John Gregory, who was famously attributed to saying that he would shoot Yorke if he had had a gun in his office when Yorke asked for the move to go ahead.
He immediately became a huge hit at Old Trafford, and quickly built up a lethal partnership with Andy Cole. A partnership that helped United to the incredible treble in 1999. Altogether he scored 64 goals for Manchester United in 188 appearances. But it will be his telepathy with Cole that put the fear of god into defenders at home and abroad.
Rumoured to have had a fall out with Fergie, about his public private life, he was sold to Blackburn in 2002 after only four seasons. In that time his goals had helped United to win the Premier League title three times, and made sure the team regained the Champions League trophy for the first time since 1968.
Ashley Young.
Manchester United: 2011 – present. App: 95 (to date)
In the Summer of 2011, Manchester United bought Young from Villa for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around £18 million. Young had been at Villa since 2007. Ferguson beat Liverpool to the signing and he agreed a five-year deal with the winger. His first season started brightly with assists and goals, which included a brace in an 8–2 victory against Arsenal at Old Trafford.
Young made his debut in the UEFA Champions League against Basel, scoring a headed goal in the 90th minute to help Manchester United to a 3–3. Then a long term injury kept Young out and he struggled to find his form upon his return. In the last couple of seasons he has been accused of diving to try and gain an unfair advantage for the team, and was ridiculed on the internet by his critics.
Under the new management and playing system of Louis van Gaal, Young is at present enjoying a mini revival of his fortunes, and is displaying his defensive qualities as well as his ability to create chances, which has helped the team to six successive wins in the league.
Tom Cleverley.
Tom Cleverley Man United Midfielder 2013
Manchester United: 2005- present (on loan at Aston Villa 2014-15) App: 63 (sub 16)
Cleverley rose through Manchester United’s youth system to become the Reserves captain, and was nominated for the prestigious Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award in 2007-08. Following successful loan spells at Leicester, Watford and Wigan Athletic, Cleverley made his United debut in August 2011 and was soon a feature of the Reds’ exciting start to the season. But a serious foot injury sustained at Bolton kept him out until October and a further setback sidelined him until February. He was then used only a few times in the at the end of the season and ended the campaign having made 15 first-team appearances.
Paul Scholes’ retirement before the 2011–12 season left an opening in Manchester United’s central midfield. Cleverley had been identified by manager Sir Alex Ferguson as a potential homegrown replacement for Scholes. However that never quite materialised for the player, even when David Moyes took over from Ferguson.
During the Summer with the signings at United of Ander Herrera, Angel Di María, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw & Radamel Falcao, Cleverley found himself on the outside of the Manchester United squad under Louis van Gaal. He attracted interest from many clubs, but chose Aston Villa. Villa made an initial bid of £8 million for Cleverley, but baulked at his wage demands. Everton then came in with an offer of £5 million but that was rejected. Villa revived their interest with a loan bid on transfer deadline day. Following his loan move with just a year left on his United contract, Cleverley admitted that his career at Old Trafford was over.
Miles Dunton.

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More benign Manchester United miscellany?!

Super Scots: Martin Buchan, Gordon Strachan and Choccy Eclair (Brian Mc’Clair ) have all won the Scottish footballer of the year award . In 1971, 1980 and 1987.

Teams we love to hate: When will they join the party? Effing perch that is Liverpool!

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