Date: 15th April 2012 at 12:49pm
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As we all know, today`s game is huge. Not only for ourselves but of course for Manchester United too. After a weekend and midweek fixture list that culminated in various thrashings, blips and slip ups, the two ends of the table are wide open again.

Our record is dismal against United and there never seems to be a great time to be playing them and today is no different. 3 or 4 points in the next few fixtures for us should just about secure safety, so can we really get them at Old Trafford?

Instead of stressing out about today`s game I decided to make a bucket of tea, sit back and in the true manner of our once great clubs philosophy “Get Realistic”.

Let`s wind the clock back to 13th May 2007. Villa are enjoying their first full season into newly appointed boss Martin O`Neill`s managerial reign. After rescuing a point at Bolton with a wonderful Luke Moore volley we settle for a mid table finish and enter the draw for European qualification thanks to our fair play stats.

What is this fair play they speak of!!???


Anyway on the same day West Ham had the daunting task of traveling to Old Trafford in a last ditch attempt to secure their Premier League survival. United had already won the title and so they rested several star players which was music to Alan Curbishleys ears. West Ham played the game out with spirit and guts and came close to scoring that vital goal after several wasted opportunities. Before long I recall United making a triple change, bringing on the superstar trio of Ronaldo, Giggs and Scholes to make sure Uniteds final home game of the season ended with 3 points and a title winning party inside Old Trafford.

It wasn`t to be, West Ham stood strong and held their nerve. Wave after wave of united onslaughts could not break the deadlock and Robert Green showed great concentration to make a string of important saves while other countless efforts on his goal blazed wide or high. Eventually in the dying moments of stoppage time West Ham went route one with Green punting a long ball which eventually fell kind for Tevez and after a neat exchange with Zamora he slotted the ball home and the Hammers survived the drop at the expense of a bitter and twisted (and understandably so) Sheffield United team.

Our situation today is not so different but can we really get 3 points? United will be reeling after the midweek loss to Wigan, there`s no doubt about that. A week ago today the title was all but theirs, what a difference a week makes! United will be even more up for it today because yesterday their closest rivals closed the gap to just two points with an emphatic stuffing of an inferior Norwich City team. A loss for United today would be a disaster.

Villa, on the other hand will, or at least bloody well should be reeling after a disappointing home draw to Stoke City. A game in which Villa threw away a comfortable home lead only to practically send out several hand written invitations to the Stoke players that read “we`d be delighted if you could join us in our box”.

I may be the only one but I think we can win today, I really do. But victory would only be possible (in my humble opinion) if the following things were to happen.

We played our best starting eleven in their best positions! Even with all of our injuries at the moment we can still muster up a team capable of beating United. Collins has seen a resurgence of form recently and partnered with the impressive Baker could really do a job for us today. Yes it would be huge pressure for Baker but at this stage in the season why not throw him in. Some would argue about damage limitation but I would counter that by saying that we are fully expected to lose today so we should be concentrating on other fixtures to find our points.

Therefore why not throw in a wildcard? Play Cuellar at right back. Ok I know it`s not his best position but he can do a job there, I`m presuming the back line will hold deep so pace to get back shouldn`t be too much of an issue then. He`s a better defender than Hutton and it would be a thrill to see him battle it out with Ashley Young on Uniteds left hand side. Lichaj has been excellent at left back so I see no reason to leave him out now. A midfield of Albrighton on the right, Zoggy on the left, Herd and Ireland seems quite exciting if you ask me. Of course Weinmann has to start doesn`t he? And Gabby…well even though he is out of form he does always enjoy a trip to The Theatre Of Dreams doesn`t he!

But…. let`s look at it realistically. Hutton and Warnock will start. McLeish hasn`t the balls to do the right thing or stand up to the more senior players in the dressing room. The kids will put in the effort and then be punished again by being made scapegoats. I have no doubt Heskey will start too. Probably as a holding striker in a solitary role while the other 10 players jump in front of flying balls and kick the round thing into the upper tiers and generally just look like complete idiots.

Manchester United will be rattled today. A lot of their players are young and quite new to being in a title winning side. For every Scholes there is De Gea, for every Giggs there is Ashley Young, for every Rooney there is Wellbeck. You see my point.

What if we hit them from the start? If Ireland can command that central role early on and channel the spirit that made him such a superstar for Man City then maybe we might see some smooth passing football. With two wingers playing in their preferred positions maybe we could get the ball out wide and try and hurt United with the pace and width that we do STILL have! United will be looking to take control early and push us back from there and then do that for the whole game but what if we said no? Is it so hard to believe us having a go straight from the kick off? An early goal for us would put the shitters right up a team who will be inevitably nervy with their neighbors now so close in the table.

But…. let`s be realistic, the United team that lost to West Ham in 2007 was not full strength. The current United team might not be the best they have ever had but you can count on whatever players that start for them today, it will be their strongest starting eleven. These guys know how to win football games and they know how to do it many different ways. If McLeish wants to play ugly then United can win ugly, if McLeish surprises the whole world and we go there and attack…. then frankly United can withstand that and do it better than us.

By the end of the Spurs game coming up we will know our destiny for next season but until then I say let`s go for it! We know we have the players to give United a good game, we showed that with the kids last year. The pressure is on them not to slip up. It`s a long shot but I think we can win this thing…. we have nothing to lose!

But…. PLEASE everyone Let`s be realistic.