Well, it`s over.
Not quite sure what to say to be honest.
None of us had even considered the prospect of defeat in this cup final, our first for 10 years and what would have been our first win in 16 years, so the actuality that we haven`t won is particularly heart breaking.
So what happened?
We Villa fans always bemoan the fact that we create so many chances, we just need a top striker to bury them. Today though was the opposite. Gabby Agbonlahor looked like he wanted the ball and wanted half a chance, but the delivery just wasn`t there.
James Milner, Stewart Downing & Ashley Young – All three are normally some of the best creators in the league but today, nothing seemed to go right.
I was particularly disappointed with Stewart Downing. He didn`t necessarily play badly but he just didn`t seem to want the ball. Whenever he picked it up he was looking to knock it to James Milner, who tried so hard by the way and buried a great penalty under enormous pressure, but couldn`t do it all alone. We needed the likes of Downing to stand up and be counted and I can count only two crosses from the man that were of the quality expected, and both came when we were 2-1 down and looking out of the game. Heskey turned one of the two onto the crossbar that somehow resulted in a corner, and Dunne dragged the other wide when powering into the box.
Downing wasn`t the only one who shirked the occasion.
Carlos Cuellar looked particularly poor and will have the Luke Young fans up in arms. Defensively he did his job apart from a very sloppy pass backwards that forced James Collins into picking up a booking. Going forward in support of the wingers though, he was woeful. Would Luke Young have offered more? Yes, I think he would.
We didn`t play too badly but we didn`t create and gave Gabby, Heskey & Carew no chance.
Some fans will point to drama surrounding Nemanja Vidic and his foul on Agbonlahor that resulted in the penalty. Should he have been sent off? As he correctly pointed out in the after match interview, he is was in front of Gabby and didn`t come through the back, so no he shouldn`t have been sent off.
BUT, at the very least it was a booking meaning that one more bad tackle and he had to go. Well, he was booked again for a very poor challenge on Ashley Young, so yes, he should have been sent off that would have undoubtedly changed the game.
I don`t want to get hung up on that though. Yes he should have been sent off and yes we could bemoan that decision but it doesn`t matter. He wasn`t sent off and we still knew we had a job to do.
I`d like it if Villans as a collective just accepted that we were not the better team and did not deserve to win.
It`s not the end of things for us this season as we are still in the hunt for the FA Cup with a 6th round match against Reading on March 7th whilst also still maintaining the top four finish.
To claim all three would have been an epic season of course, but as long as we take the time to recover from the heartbreak, our season is still very much on course to be good one.
Friedel – 6
Well he went for Big Brad but there was very little to argue over whether Guzan should have played. He pulled off one great save but had little he could have done for either of the finishes.
Warnock – 6
A slip let in Valencia that led to Park`s shot that cannoned off the post. A quiet afternoon for the new England left back, not a bad one, but a performance not up to his normal standards.
Collins – 7
Solid. Picked up the booking to save Cuellar`s blushes and seemed to deal with everything in the air. Well, most things anyway.
Dunne – 6
Hasn`t made many mistakes this season but despite tracking back and making the fantastic tackle to stop Berbatov, was unlucky to see the ball fall to Owen who would never miss from that chance. Good opportunity to equalise from Downing`s cross but never lacking in effort.
Cuellar – 5
Definitely not a right back. I can`t blame him though. He would surely prefer to play at centre back but is played out of position by O`Neill. Woeful distribution today and hindered us going forward. One for MON to answer as to why he didn`t play Luke Young.
Downing – 6
Looked shy of the occasion giving the ball to Milner every time and appeared to not want to get at the United back line. Should have done more.
Petrov – 6
A typical performance of the Villa captain. Hardly grabbing any headlines and had a terrible strike go well wide but still, he tried and I can`t knock him.
Milner – 7
Seemed to personify Villa`s main threat and we all got hopeful every time he picked up the ball. Still, he can`t do it all alone.
A. Young – 7
Did look bright and was perhaps one of Villa`s better performers of the day but lacked any real service. Seems to be hitting form at the right time.
Heskey – 6
Did his part of the job by holding up the ball rather well but offered minimal goal threat but for the one coming off the cross bar. Was let down by the lack of overlapping from wingers and full backs.
Agbonlahor – 7
Oh how he tried. Had no service to speak of but ran his socks off trying to get the ball. Won the penalty from some early pressure but seemed to fade in the game.
Carew (for Cuellar) – 6
Not long enough to judge.
No shocks with the starting line up and made the right move when we went 2-1 down by taking off the poor Cuellar for striker John Carew. Maybe should have brought on Carew in place of Heskey when the score was tied to offer something different up front. Will have done himself no favours with Luke Young fans in picking Cuellar.
Reeked of arrogance at the start leaving out Scholes & Rooney but in the end had little to do apart from take off the injured goal scorer, Owen, for the other goal scorer, Rooney.
Ref Watch (Phil Dowd)
After making a few early bookings and correctly awarding the penalty he let a few United challenges go unpunished to try and get the game flowing again but will be criticized for his failure to send off Nemanja Vidic.
Okay, so we’re not the Carling Cup champions. We all thought we would be, but it’s only March. We still have the FA Cup and the hunt for fourth so lets not get all down beat just yet. Let’s dust our selves down, pick ourselves up and see how we are in May.