With a tricky first game against newly-promoted A.F.C. Bournemouth successfully navigated by Tim Sherwood and his troops, the Villans will now take on more familiar foes from Manchester United at Villa Park. The opposition might be all too familiar to Villa fans but a Friday night game under the lights is not.
The players should be buoyant and the fans certainly seem to be up for it, with plans for a mosaic in the lower Holte End in place and very few tickets remaining.
The first game of the season was not seen as being the best time to play Eddie Howe’s Cherries but this is a good time to be playing Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils, in my opinion.
Most fans will be aware we have not beaten Manchester United at home since August 1995. Twenty years without a win at Villa Park against Friday night’s opponents is madness! One positive is that the last time we beat them at Villa Park it was our first home game of the campaign, just as it will be this time around. Other than that, our record against Manchester United doesn’t bode well.
I feel it is a good time to play Manchester United as the team didn’t look overly convincing against Tottenham Hotspur in the opening game of the season and Louis van Gaal probably won’t have finished assembling his squad yet. I’d be shocked if Pedro and a new defender don’t arrive at Old Trafford by the end of the month. Their new players will not have bedded in fully yet either. Sherwood, of course, has the same issue but, in that respect at least, the teams are on a level playing field.
Saturday’s hero, Rudy Gestede, has the potential to worry Manchester United’s back line: Smalling can be got at and there is no way that Blind, as good a player as he is, is a centre half. To me, Louis van Gaal looks like he is shoe-horning one of his favourites – and as Villa fans we know how that works out.
The Manchester United squad contains players who can hurt us: Rooney has a brilliant record against us and Depay will turn into a Premier League star. Nevertheless, for the first time in a while, I am confident that we have players, like Gestede, who can trouble the Red Devils. Jordan Amavi looks like the real deal and Idrissa Gueye’s box-to-box style and composure on the ball will only aid us. If Agbonlahor, Ayew or Sinclair play as well as we know they can then we will have the attacking options to deliver something. It is a pity that this game will most likely come too soon for Gil and Grealish.
If the Villans are to pick up any points, they will obviously needs to be at their best but Villa Park is a special place under the lights. Could this be the year in which we finally end our Manchester United jinx? This is a chance for our lads to make a statement. Irrespective of our tragic home record against Manchester United, Villa Park has been too easy a place for our opponents to play at. Even under O’Neill we often struggled at home and under Houllier, McLeish and Lambert, the home record got worse and worse. Is Tim Sherwood the man to make Villa Park a fortress?
An issue in home games in recent years has been the often poisonous atmosphere in B6, meaning that Villa Park was a place only opposition players enjoyed playing in. Tim Sherwood has gone some way towards changing this, working hard to win over the fans, and almost everyone is now singing from the same hymn sheet. I’m expecting an electrifying, positive atmosphere on Friday night. I’m hoping that this proves to be the season in which the Villa players and fans enjoy being at home again, as it has been too long since our teams displayed any kind of consistency there.
The timing of the fixture is unusual so let’s hope for an unusual result as well!