Valiant Villa Hold United

By Tom Vickers
Last updated : 23 November 2008
Villa are proving Sir Alex Ferguson right.
Earlier in the season, the Scottish manager claimed that the Claret and Blue are the most likely side to break into the top four during this campaign.
And after Martin O'Neill's men held Ferguson's Manchester United to a draw at Villa Park on Saturday it seems they are capable of challenging the elite.
They now move into the top four above injury-hit Arsenal.
OK, so we won't get too carried away, after all, there is still a long way to go.
But, after destroying the Gunners at the Emirates, Villa put in their best performance against United since their last victory against the champions in 1995.
To a man, the home side were excellent.
Gareth Barry, Steve Sidwell and Stiliyan Petrov were combative and cultured in midfield.
Gabby Agbonlahor ploughed a lone furrow up front and linked well with the tireless and tricky James Milner.
And Villa's defence stood strong against the two Ronnies - Ronaldo and Rooney.
The biggest accolade, though, must go to Nigel Reo-Coker.
The central midfield dynamo, playing at right back, gave Portuguese winger Ronaldo no space in which to play and he eventually left the field frustrated.
Villa's strength and United's fine football made this one of the most intriguing goalless draws Villa Park has ever seen.
United bossed the first half with Ronaldo testing Brad Friedel from long range.
The tempestuous midfielder then slipped in Park for what looked a certain goal but Ashley Young denied the South Korean with a brilliant last ditch tackle.

Penalty

After the break, Villa began to assert themselves more and started to push their illustrious opponents back.
Young sent a swirling cross over the head of Edwin Van Der Sar, who did well to tip it over the bar.
On the hour mark, Villa's best chance appeared to have arrived as Agbonlahor beat Vidic with his pace and surged towards the box.
The Serbian defender was pulling at the England striker's shirt and then appeared to fell him in the box but referee Chris Foy waved the penalty appeals away.
Foy had seemed lenient towards the away side throughout the game and his decision didn't please O'Neill, who was jumping around in typical fashion on the touchline.
United, shocked into action by that close call, surged forward and Rooney missed what he would view as guilt edged opportunity.
Michael Carrick played the ball through and the striker, who is in a poor run of goalscoring form, could only blaze his shot over the bar.
As the game seemed to be drifting towards a draw, Villa created one last chance.
The Holte End held its breath as Milner got to the byline but failed to pick out the waiting Agbonlahor and sub John Carew.
Vidic was on hand to clear as the home side's best opportunity went astray.
All in all it felt like a win for Villa. The fans celebrated as if United had finally been overthrown.
Ferguson couldn't really have complained if United had lost the game.
But, in the end it was a welcome point for Villa, who have finally breached the top four after missing opportunities against Newcastle and Middlesbrough in recent weeks.
Whether they can stay there remains to be seen but if they continue to perform in this manner they could just make Ferguson's prediction a reality.

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