As Good As It Gets?
Report of match Manchester United 0 Aston Villa 1 played 12th December 2009
Reporter Tom Vickers
Villa beat United to end 26-year league hoodoo
You felt it had to happen sooner or later.
Villa went close at Old Trafford last season but, finally, they have the victory that means so much.
Many will say that a win against Birmingham is as good as it gets, but Martin O’Neill’s men beat their bitter rivals on a regular basis these days so surely that is not an accurate analysis.
A win at Old Trafford has got to be the ultimate achievement for the Claret and Blue. The Midlands men have had to endure years - 26 of them to be exact - of taunts on trains, planes and street corners from their glory hunting rivals.
Some Villa sides of days gone by have gone close to ending one of the longest hoodoos in football but they have all fallen at the final hurdle.
Just last season O’Neill’s men were a mere ten minutes from victory on the same turf before Cristiano Ronaldo and the little known wunderkind Federico Macheda struck to clinch the contest in United’s favour.
This time, though, there was no Ronaldo and no Macheda. But there was one Gabby Agbonlahor.
The speedy striker is getting better and better and his link-up play with winger Ashley Young is nothing short of awesome at times.
The England hopefuls provide the pace which carries Villa forward on the counter attack and so often catches the opposition out.
It was that very combination that beat United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and his back line to hand Villa their momentous match winning goal.
Agbonlahor presented the ball to his teammate and then raced into the area to get his head on a typically teasing Young cross.
It was an unbelievable moment for the striker, his fellow Villa players and fans of the Claret and Blue worldwide.
It was also magic for manager Martin. The Northern Irishman, who prowls the touchline for the full 90 minutes of every outing, is walking on air right now.
O’Neill is widely recognised as one of the greatest gaffers in the game. And victories like the one engineered in Manchester show exactly why.
He has been cut from the Brian Clough cloth and is now displaying the managerial genius of the former Nottingham Forest and Derby County sensation.
Clough was quite simply brilliant, and his protégé ain’t half bad either.
O’Neill can dine out on this wonderful win for years to come but, make no mistake, he will hope this is only the beginning for his emerging side.
Villa now sit third in the league (ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Anfield today), and there are real hopes that this season will be the one when the top four monopoly is broken.
Liverpool look weak and the rest of the so called ‘Big Four’ are vulnerable. If Villa beat Arsenal on December 27, then they will have the completed a famous clean sweep of the Premier League pantheon.
It would be a superb achievement but those victories must not be limited to Old Trafford and Anfield, as brilliant as they may be.
Agbonlahor, Young and co must also learn how to win dirty. They need to see off the Burnley’s and the Stoke’s if they are to consider a Champions League spot. It is the mark of champions to win when you’re playing badly and Villa are yet to master that art.
But, in this a season of firsts, don’t bet against them doing just that from now on in. A championship challenge may be a bit too much to ask but why, after showing they can beat the best, can’t Villa upset the traditional top four apple cart?
O’Neill will secretly think they can do it and with one of the best teams for 26 years anything is possible.