ASTON VILLA 3-0 Hull City
A goal from defence, midfield & up front saw Villa comfortably beat the tanned one`s Hull City. O`Neill continued with the same team that beat Portsmouth midweek in the Carling Cup and it paid off well. James Milner was in brilliant form from the middle, even managing a cheeky goal courtesy of star ball boy, Steve Sidwell. Richard Dunne fired a well-placed shot to take the lead and John Carew wrapped things up with a penalty after Ashley Young was felled in the box. Never looked like they needed to move out of second gear due to the early exit of Jimmy Bullard, meaning Hull lacked the one key threat they had going into the game.
West Ham 0-4 MANCHESTER UNITED
Defensive woes? What defensive woes? In a match that Fergie was forced into playing Fletcher, Carrick & Giggs at the back, you would have expected the Hammers to at least notch one goal. Wasn`t to be. Scholes opened the scoring at the end of a poor first half which set up United to stroll through the second. Gibson, Valencia & Rooney all scored 10 minutes apart from each other to really add weight to the old cliché, the best form of defence is attack.
With Villa`s last two performances with the new look midfield really paying off you might think it`s a bit foolish to change a winning team. With all due respect, this though, is no Pompey or Hull. Even with the frailties of the United defence some are calling for the re-introduction of Reo-Coker (possibly in place of Heskey) to help shore up the midfield against the champions. I feel that with Fergie`s selection dilemma this is as good a time as any for O`Neill to really see what his midfield is made of. I`d stick with the same 4-4-2 that played Hull and try to put our game onto United and chase the win. Milner will have his work cut out coming up against a legend in Scholes, but if he can keep the ball moving then surely the old man`s legs will tire.
Defence: Warnock, Dunne, Cuellar, L. Young
Midfield: Downing, Petrov, Milner, A. Young,
Up Front: Heskey, Agbonlahor
Subs: Guzan, Clarke, Beye, Sidwell, Reo-Coker, Delph, Carew
It`s all about the defence of United at the moment. Sir Alex has already said that his starting back four will be Evra, Fletcher, Carrick & the returning Vidic, so I can see United leaning on the talismanic duo of Giggs & Scholes. Rooney & Berbatov return but lets hope the lack of match fitness and experience in key positions has more of an effect this weekend than it did last.
Defence: Evra, Vidic, Carrick, Fletcher
Midfield: Giggs, Scholes, Anderson, Valencia
Up Front: Rooney, Berbatov
Subs: Foster, De Laet, Park, Obertan, Gibson, Nani, Owen
Carlos Cuellar: Has been putting in some brilliant performances of late showing that he really is a centre back more than a right back. Will have his hands full with a very attack minded Manchester United team so him and Dunne will need to be on top form if Villa are to have any chance.
Paul Scholes: Even at 35, the former England player is still one of the best players in the country. Has the vision of a hawk, and let`s not forget, he likes to score the odd cracker against the Villa. Anyone else remember the one that nearly smashed the crossbar in two before dropping into the net?
Unquestionably, this game will be won and lost in the middle of the park. If Villa can play their game of football and keep the ball away from the likes of the always-dangerous Giggs & Scholes, then they have every chance of coming away with their share of the points, if not all of them. The legs of the ageing duo won`t last 90 minutes if they are chasing the ball so we need the switching and changing on the flanks of Downing & Young to with Milner`s energy and Petrov`s leadership.
On the other hand though, if Giggs and Scholes are given an inch of space, they will punish us. They have all the experience of playing at the top and know how to make the most of any gifted situation.
Our defence is as good as any in the league at the moment so if they can do their job against the brilliant Rooney and Berbatov, then there may be a chance of nicking it towards the end.
I`m going to be optimistic with this one. It`s a long time since we`ve beaten United and this is a real chance to do so. If we all get on our knees and collectively pray, then by numbers alone, someone should be listening.
Prediction Manchester United 1-2 Aston Villa
If you fancy risking a few quid for a big return then you might want to take a look at Betfair.
They have some remarkable prices that are worth a bit of a punt. Villa to win 1-0 is 21-1, Villa to win 2-0 is 60-1, Villa to win 2-1 is 25-1 and if you`re brave enough, Villa to win 3-1 is a massive 95-1.
If you`re undecided as to the score line, then just go for the straight Villa win at a tasty 7-1.
Open an account with betfair and deposit £25. If you lose your first bet then the good people at betfair will credit your account with £25 to place another bet.
You can`t lose. I`m going to stick £25 on Villa to win. £175 isn`t a bad return at all.
Not that you all need reminding, but I implore you to remember Frederico Macheda`s wonder strike in the 19th minute of injury time in this fixture last season.
There, that should get the blood plumping before the weekend.