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vs: Manchester Utd: Knight-mare at Styles Street


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Aston Villa 1 Manchester United 4

Saturday 20th October 2007

FA Barclays Premiership

Villa Park

After an excellent first 30 minutes of play, Villa self imploded and pressed the panic button once more and let in four goals for the second time this season. Urged on by the referee Manchester United took advantage (and control).

Pre Match

It's not embarassing to lose to Manchester United. They are a top, top team and whilst Villa are capable of doing some good stuff, I'm afraid to say I don't see us as being anything other than average.

I was expecting Villa to take the game to Manchester United, but get caught out, and go down perhaps 2-0.

The Goals

Five of them! I'll be perfectly honest with you. Zat Knight fans, look away now. I'm not one of these people who were totally against Knight from the start. When we signed him, we needed an addition to the defensive team, and Knight followed Harewood in the level that O'Neill seemed to be wanting to bring in to the club, for whatever reason. But the lad had a bit of a shocker today.

The move that brought Villa the lead after 13 minutes was a superb bit of football. Villa had started superbly, with starlets Young and Agbonlahor frightening Manchester United time and time again. Young put in a fantastic cross, and Gabby got his head onto it to flick past Van Der Saar.

And then on, Villa continued trying the same thing. They defended stronly, then broke away and caused problems (more on which, later - we're just keeping to the goals here).

The equaliser came from a cross by Nani on the left side of defence. The ball flashed across the face of goal, with Zat Knight committing the sin that a defender should never, ever do, which is let the ball flash across the six yard box when he has a chance to clear it. Knight held out his hands as the ball past him in a "I'm leaving it, no danger here" kind of way, only for Rooney to tap in from close range.

Knight was also found at fault for the second goal. Rooney managed to totally lose the lanky defender, and slot home past the goalkeeper. A good finish, and a good bit of play, by Knight really should have done better.

The third again, had Knights fingers all over it. A corner from the left was sung in, and Knight failed to make any connection to a header which he really should have. Ferdinand got a head onto it and Gardner, who was there on the line only managed to clear it as far as the crossbar, of which it bounced off and in.

The fourth was scored once we were down to nine men, and to be honest, we were lucky that it had stopped there. It was a Ryan Giggs shot that hit Martin Laursen and looped over Stuart Taylor in goal.

Thoughts on the performance

For the first half an hour, Villa were tremendous. They had scored one goal and should have had a second, had it not been for Luke Moore completely missing the ball when getting a toe on another fabulous cross by Young would have been easier. Villa were defending well, as a team, and everyone was getting stuck in. And then, just like what happened at Tottenham, Aston Villa's defence once more self imploded. Knight was the chief culprit, but you have to question the whole back four and goalkeeper over the first and third goals conceeded. For all the defensive signings Villa have made over the summer, they are still short of two players back there. Once we were 3-1 down, obviously, there was no coming back.

Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor once again showed that they are the driving force of this team. They get the ball and they run with it. It's simple - but effective - they scare every defence they play against. Unfortunately, Villa's 'heart beat' in the middle of the pitch were ineffective against a strong Manchester United. Gareth Barry's form for England may be the best it ever has been, but for Villa it's becoming all too stale at the moment. And Nigel Reo-Coker was sent off for two poor challenges. To be honest, I can't remember too much about the first offence, but the second was certainly worth a yellow card. The thing that really frustrates me though, is that sure, if the referee deems two poor, but not dangerous challenges as a red card then please make it fair and apply the same rules to the other team. Yet Pique was allowed to get away with many a mistimed challenge and escaped a card.

Before referee Styles started getting card happy, O'Neill seems to have decided to have written the game off and use it to rest and blood in players. Off came Moore, another performance he can be disappointed with and on came Shaun Maloney, who in the short time he played up front looks good and lively. Isiah Osbourne came on to replace Gardner, and was played wide right, for some reason. Reo-Coker had been charging around the pitch, clearly frustrated, and when Osbourne was waiting to enter the pitch, the obvious choice seemed to be replacing Reo-Coker. Unfortunately, this wasn't done, and moments later Nigel was sent off.

Nigel is a frustrating player, he really is. At times he'll do some great stuff, get stuck in, get the ball and then lay it off fantastically. And then he'll go quiet for ten minutes. It's really, really frustrating and up the the manager to get the best of him.

The one bit of luck that did go Villa's way was that they hadn't made their third substitution when Carson was sent off. Curtis Davies was ready to come on when Tevez was adjudged to have been brought down by Carson. Fair enough. Tevez wasn't heading straight to goal, and there seemed to be a player between Carson and the striker. That doesn't stop Super Styles though, who took great delight at being able to flourish another red card.

Taylor came on and much to the dismay of Styles, had the cheek to save the penalty from Rooney.

The Ref

The irony of this, is that one of the league's better referees - Howard Webb, was on the bench as a fourth official. And yet Styles, a referee who has a history of making clangers, contunes to be given games.

Let me get this straight - I'm not blaming the referee for the defeat. Had we finished the chances we did have, and managed to keep our brains in gear in defence, then we could have got something from this game. But we didn't.

The thing that frustrates me, really frutrates me is that every time Manchester United come to town, it's one rule for us, one rule for them. Gabby Agbonlahor was clearly brought down in the Manchester United box when the scores were still 1-1, yet Styles waves play on. Replays confirm it was a certain penalty. He's only too happy to award Manchester United a penalty though. Will Mr Styles be apologising to Martin O'Neill for his incorrect decision, as he did with Rafa Benetiz when he got a decision wrong in his game?I wouldn't count on it, we aren't one of the big four. He doesn't seem to care what people actually think of his performances.

Pique mistimed a fair few challenges on both Young and Agbonlahor. No problem there - they are both pacey, attacking players. But he doesn't give a card - benefit of the doubt. Yet Reo-Coker makes two mistimed challenges and he is sent off. Where is the consistency? Where is the fairness?

The referee set his stall out in the first few minutes and kept with it. A Villa defender got a touch on a ball to poke the ball away from an on rushing striker, Rooney, I think, and Carson is forced to go to ground to stop Rooney getting to it. The ball wasn't passed directly to the goalkeeper, it was a touch on the ball to divert it was from the sriker. But Alex Ferguson appeals, so a free kick for a passback is given.

Imagine this scenario. Young runs at Brown, only for Brown to get a touch on the ball to take it away from the winger and Van Der Saar prevents it going out for a corner. Do you honestly think Mr Styles would have given the free kick in that position? No chance. Not a chance at all. And it's this inconsistency that is frustrating, and quite frankly the one thing that is ruining football. Forget kick off times, money or anything like that. It's inconsistent, incompetant referees. It's not just us. Look at the Everton vs Liverpool game today. Gerrard gets foul just outside the area running in on goal, yes, a foul, but he's not direct on goal and there are players around him. But Gerrard plays for one of the big four. So it's a penalty instead of a free kick. Clattenberg the referee gets a yellow card out ready for the defender, only for Gerrard to go up to the referee, have a word with him and immediately "POOF!" - the card turns into a red for the defender. Kuyt, on the other hand, is allowed to jump two foot in the area with both feet raised going into a tackle on only get a yellow. This inconsistency is just not fair on the rest of the Premiership.


Young and Gabby looked superb again. For the first thirty minutes we were rather good. Stuart Taylor's fantastic penalty save. Oh, and they've started selling rather nice cookies in the Trinity Road End.


Luke Moore's hopeless finishing. Zat Knight's hopeless concentration levels. Nigel Reo-Coker's hopless.

The Opposition

Simply better than us, and will be better than us for a very, very long time.

Next up for us is Bolton, and we will meet Gavin McCann and JlLoyd Samuel once more. And they'll probably have a new manager too. And it's on TV, and we never win on TV. Hmm.

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4-1 flattered united somewhat, poor defensive errors gave the game away in a stupid 10 minutes. had we gone in at half time 1-0 or 1-1 im sure we would have got something out the game.

as always, the ref has something to do with us and losing to "bigger" teams, reo coker hadnt made a foul all game, then 1 mis-timed tackle was punished by a yellow, then a stupid lunge and a bit of play acting from anderson gauranteed utd the points as reo coker was given a second yellow.

as for carson, his was more clear cut, a professional foul = a red card, no complaints.

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Look....I ain't going to say that Zat Knight is this or that...... but our problems existed way before it got to Zat Knight.

This team at times can work some good moves and other times are apalling.

Apalling... thats a strong word... against ManU i thought they were worse than that.

Its been a long time since i walked out early, but with 16 mins left at 1-4 down and not an ounce of self belief in key players, one fan said to me call yourself a villa fan.... I said would you just stand around watching a child being mauled when you can't do a thing about it.

That was just not fun for me and watching Paul Scholes once again causing us so much grief, unattended..... are we ever going to learn anything.

Got nothing positive to say so I'm Going.

no I'm not Barry & Reo-Coker were shocking.

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Good report; two observations. One - that Moore on one occasion tracked back, tackled and retrieved the ball and shot narrowly wide into the side netting whilst under pressure. He looked lively as wel, i.m.o. A goal would sort him out, I think. Two - we must drop this "never win on TV" theme. I remember Villa winning 6-2 against Everton and then 2-0 vs Inter-Milan on TV years ago. Tremendous matches and excellent wins. We can do it again.

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On Rio COker, yes, the first booking was so soft, and so similar a mild tackle, missed, with no injury, intent to injure, or intent to foul even as many others in the game. It should never ever have been a booking. The second one was a clear yellow. So he was unlucky. BUT his record of bookings last season for West Ham, and this season, again, with us is appalling. Shamefully so. He is not learning. He commits stupid fouls, needless fouls. He says he is a mature leader type of player, one with a bit of intelligence about his game. Frankly it's rubbish. He's an idiot. Only an idiot would continue to utterly fail to improve his discipline. He MUST do something about it, as countless other players before him have. It's no use playing the hard man. Play the game instead you muppet.

I thought Man U were at times superb, and for a while, the first 30 odd minutes we matched them - it was end to end, with both sides looking dangerous, but once they equalised, our lot looked they were waiting for half time, to be told what to do. Man U just kept at it. That 10 minutes where we lost the mental focus and concentration is what cost us. Not a poor ref, not cheating, just a lack of mental application and fortitude.

United have better players in the majority of positions, but not all. Gabby and Ashley were outstanding, for example.

Though we were tonked, there is both promise there and some serious areas to be addressed. It's clearly very much a team in progress, rather than anywhere near a finished article.

I'm not downhearted by the result, or even the performance, which was part excellent, part rubbish.

Ozzy looked to have improved a great deal since last season (as the reserve watchers have been saying), Barry looked a bit tired, unsurprisingly - he hasn't been rested from games, or missed games, like many of the Utd internationals have had the chance to do.

Zat Knight and Craig Gardner both had some fairly catastrophic lapses, which cost us. In essence it was these lapses, together with Utd's excellence that meant we fell short.

I'd wager that Curtis Davies will be in next game and Ozzy too.

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Great observations. Here's mine:

1) If Marlon Harewood was a brummie or Villa academy product, he'd be getting pushed to replace Luke Moore in the team.

Moore on one occasion tracked back, tackled and retrieved the ball and shot narrowly wide into the side netting whilst under pressure. He looked lively as wel, i.m.o. A goal would sort him out, I think.

I honestly feel that Luke has been useless and this was his solitary contribution to the game!

2) Zat Knight is our version of Titus Bramble - skillfull, strong, quick and athletic, coupled with no tactical sense, focus, or willingness to "get stuck in where it hurts."

Zat Knight and Craig Gardner both had some fairly catastrophic lapses, which cost us. In essence it was these lapses, together with Utd's excellence that meant we fell short.

Gardner was attempting to clear a ball that had pinged around our box and was headed towards goal by a player who was being "marked" by Zat. He was playing with a slight groin pull and I'm sure that impeded his ability to stretch for that particular waist high ball. That's squad depth - who else was going to play on the right of midfield?

3) I watched the Spurs game and this game twice - Gareth Barry has been awful in both games and with NRC getting himself booked every game it has rendered our central midfield as pathetic.

Barry looked a bit tired, unsurprisingly - he hasn't been rested from games, or missed games, like many of the Utd internationals have had the chance to do.

In the second half of the Spurs game he touched the ball three times.... that's not tiredness!! Petrov is a better option at this point in time (when McCann was hurt last year Petrov played the holding role superbly)

4) MON has refused to name names, but I think the substitutions told the story, along with his post-match "Gabby and Young were great."

Expect to see Maloney in for Moore, Osborner for Gardner, Petrov for Reo-Coker and Davies for Knight.

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Agree with most of this - but how can we be "no more than average" yet play "tremendous" !

I think we are tremendous - but inconsistent...that's not average in my book.

Moore was u/s.

I think people are right about Barry - seems to have gone off - but in my view we/he was better when we had a sort of 5 in midfield - which I think MON was doing when he made his 2nd half subs, and until RC went off I thought it was beginning to pay off, I actually could see us getting a second and shoring up the mfield.

I hope he tries Maloney and Petrov with Osborne Barry and Young as a five / four behind Gabby.

I've thought Knight has done pretty well most the season, but agree he was at fault for all 3 goals in the first half- only good enough against the poorer teams. Still reckon we're MORE than 6 points better than last year tho' and top 6 will be ours !

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