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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sir Alex stays upbeat

Sir Alex Ferguson was far from despondent after United were held to a goalless draw at Aston Villa.

After watching Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal all drop points on Saturday, the Reds were held to a battling stalemate by Martin O'Neill's side, but Sir Alex did not see the draw as a missed opportunity.

The manager told MUTV: "Obviously we haven't taken advantage (of other results), but in context of the difficulties of the three teams we're talking about - Liverpool, Chelsea and ourselves - I think we're the team that's had the best result today.

"At the end of the day I'm satisfied in the effort the players made. It was a very determined and aggressive Aston Villa team. They really set out to make it difficult for us, but we handled that well. Today has proved that Aston Villa are a much-improved side with a lot of consistency about them, and I really think they could be in the top four."

The United boss felt that his side had done enough to warrant all three points, but reserved praise for the way Villa defended resolutely to keep United at bay.

"It was a great effort against a very determined Aston Villa team who defended for their lives, and you saw towards the end of the match that they were just hanging on," he said.

"We created the chances in the game, Villa didn't really have any. Wayne and Ji-sung Park both had good chances. Our possession was good and we had so much pressure, but in fairness to them they hung in."

Aston Villa Vs. Manchester United Match Report

United failed to close the gap at the top of the Barclays Premier League after being held to a frustrating goalless draw at Aston Villa.

The Reds dictated play for long spells but were unable to make the decisive breakthrough, with Wayne Rooney spurning the best chance midway through the second half.

While a point may not be the worst result away at a top-four side, it meant the champions were unable fully to take advantage of slips-up by Liverpool and Chelsea earlier in the day.

United had arrived for the early evening clash having won on their 11 previous visits to Villa Park in all competitions. The Reds’ line-up showed three changes as Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs all returned from injury or illness.

Villa created the first opening as Gabriel Agbonlahor ran onto Martin Laursen’s flicked header but couldn’t divert the ball past Edwin van der Sar.

United’s only chance of note in the opening quarter of an hour came when Cristiano Ronaldo cut inside and unleashed a half-volley that Brad Friedel did well to palm wide.

Nigel Reo-Coker, a midfielder by trade but playing at right-back, ventured forward and found himself with space and time to shoot, but van der Sar clung on well low to his left.

On a lush playing surface United were playing some coherent football, with Giggs, Rooney and Carlos Tevez in particular looking lively, but were finding high-flying Villa a little more difficult to break down than Stoke the previous week.

On the half-hour James Milner whipped in a dangerous cross from the right which Ferdinand hacked away at second attempt with Agbonlahor ready to pounce.

Seven minutes before the break Ji-sung Park had an excellent chance to break the deadlock after running onto Rooney’s pass in the box, but the Korean took too much time on the ball and was dispossessed by Ashley Young.

The same duo were involved in another opportunity a minute later but Park was inches away from converting Rooney’s low right-wing cross. Nemanja Vidic then headed a Giggs free-kick narrowly wide as United finished the half in the ascendency.

Villa came out with more intent to cause United problems and van der Sar was called into action again to tip over Ashley Young’s left-foot curler. Laursen headed over a resultant corner when well placed in the centre of the box.

There was a flashpoint just before the hour when the pacy Agbonhalor got in behind Vidic and was brought down just inside the box, but referee Chris Foy ruled Vidic had won the ball cleanly.

Villa were gaining a foothold but you sensed that a goal for United would deflate them. Rooney had a glorious chance to make that breakthrough but blasted high and wide from seven yards after running onto Michael Carrick’s clever pass over his head.

With 20 minutes to go Sir Alex Ferguson brought on Nani in place of Tevez, who had worked his socks off without creating any clear-cut openings for himself.

Ronaldo followed 10 minutes later and was walking gingerly as he was replaced by Anderson, having signalled to the bench that he was feeling discomfort in his knee.

It was hearts-in-mouths time for United soon after as James Milner outfoxed his two markers inside the box, only to see his cross from the byline cut out by the Reds’ defence.

United failed to carve out any more openings as the game drew to a close and the shares were spoiled, ending Villa’s 14-match losing run against Sir Alex’s men.

ASTON VILLA: Friedel, Reo-Coker, Laursen, Davies, L. Young, Barry, Sidwell (Carew 81), Petrov, Milner, Agbonlahor, A.Young.
Subs not used: Guzan, Knight, Harewood, Gardner, Salifou, Shorey.
Bookings: Davies.

MANCHESTER UNITED: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo (Anderson 82), Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Tevez (Nani 71).
Subs not used: Welbeck, Rafael, Evans, Gibson, Kuszczak.

Attendance: 42,585

Aston Villa Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Aston Villa 0 - 0 Manchester United