Carling Cup Final: O'Neill One, Ferguson Nil—Can Aston Villa Do It Again?
In the two meetings between the sides contesting this weekends league cup final, Martin O'Neill's Villa have the advantage, having won once and drawn once. Martin O'Neill was in truth lucky to have escaped with the draw at Villa park because of numerical superiority after the sending off of Nani, it seemed at the end of the match that had United played with the full compliment of players they would have taken all three points.
United controlled the match to a large extent and Villa's lack of idea's going forward against ten men will be something that weighs heavily on the mind of O'Neill as he tries to put together a side that is capable of exploiting weaknesses in Ferguson's United side.
Though at times the league cup seems to be something that many managers use as a chance to blood younger players and work through combinations, when it comes to the final itself, the chance at holding the cup aloft in front of your adoring support is something that makes the day magical and an opportunity to be a part of something that will never be forgotten.
Villa certainly have the personnel to win against United as they showed at Old Trafford earlier this season when Gabriel Agbonlahor's goal was enough to take the three points back to Birmingham. The win breaking a spell of superiority over Villa by United that had lasted since 1981.
Aston Villa were one of the sides that gave United a run for their money in the early days of the premiership when they were under the stewardship of former United manager Ron "Champagne" Atkinson, and for Villa fans the promise of those years in the early nineties is something that keeps them on the teams back now.
Big American Brad Friedel has been as important as ever for the villains this season with his goalkeeping being the difference in several important games for Villa already this season.
The winning and losing off this game will be in the creation and conversion of chances. Which does not bode so well for Villa with only 37 league goals scored to United's 66. United manage to create opportunities aplenty for their forwards and with Wayne Rooney, the leagues top scorer, in their ranks it will be a tough night for Villa's defensive unit.
Aston Villa though have recently put Burnley to the sword and the confidence gained from such a performance can never be underestimated. In such a performance there is a fire that is ignited within players who perform well and with the goals well spread through the team and outstanding performances from Stewart Downing and James Milner Villa have many positives to take into the match.
United come off a comprehensive midweek victory over West Ham, who have looked a little lost on their travels this season and were certainly at times running blindly after the ball at Old Trafford.
After the mauling they received at Goodison from an Everton side that brought to mind the glory of their early '80s period, the midweek win was just the tonic they needed to revitalise before they meet the only side to have beaten them at home this season.
By no means is this tie easy to call as both sides are capable of watertight defending and explosive attacking moments.
It is the Devils vs the Villains, which makes for an evil fixture, can O'Neill's villainous charges overwhelm their devilish adversaries through speed and sleight of foot? Or will the devils call upon the fires of hell to burn their way forward to the opposition goal?
There is huge potential for a wonderful match with able goal scorers in both teams. Hopefully it will measure up to the anticipation and not develop into the war of attrition that it so easily become.
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