A very Merry Christmas to all readers from The Villa Underground. We hope you’ve filled yourselves to the brim with festive VillaDogs and wine.
Now, back to the main event!
What can be said of this fixture for us as Villa fans? Traditionally, United must be considered one of our ultimate bogey teams. As we spluttered and struggled to find our identity in the 90’s, Alex Ferguson’s side took hold and there were increasingly few occasions where we went toe-to-toe.
In the 2000’s, we had moments during the Lerner era, but this was then a period in which Villa’s general malaise turned into perpetual decline. Until now.
There is a certain irony at this juncture, as Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United currently appear without a clear identity and competitiveness of their own. Indeed, the Dutch manager’s tenure appears very much insecure.Embed from Getty Images
Villa’s fortunes have of course changed course markedly. Under Unai Emery, we have become a very difficult unit to face. Undefeated at home in now 15 games, some lazily point to our away form as being inferior. It’s far from a problem, with the club ranked 6th as of the time of writing. By contrast, United appear in just 11th spot for home results this term.
The challenge now for Emery is arguably tempering the growing expectations from a fanbase desperate to end a drought of success. Something quite special feels within touching distance; dare we dream? It’s the hope that kills you, they say.
Fine form, unheard of in more than a generation, has seen Villa rocket up the division. The fine recent back-to-back wins over Man City and Arsenal turned heads. A gritty late away win over Bournemouth set up a potential table-topping fixture against Sheffield United. Villa grabbed a late equaliser after former Villa striker Cameron Archer had given the visitors a late lead.
It was a reminder, like the defeat at Nottingham Forest and the opening day humbling against Newcastle, that football can throw up shocks and surprises.
This is not a straightforward match, far from it, but we have started to turn a corner on our dismal Old Trafford record. A run of just 2 victories in 51 attempts has been improved upon, with Villa winning two of the last 4 head to heads.
We’ll be without Cash and Kamara through suspension. Tieleman’s sits out with a lingering calf complaint, whilst the impressive Pau Torres is a doubt. It would be a lie to suggest that this doesn’t weaken us and our options across 90 minutes.
It is however another chance to think the unthinkable and squeeze the established top sides of the Premier League. A win would be outstanding, but a draw shouldn’t be sniffed at. United haven’t lost 3 games on the bounce at home since the 1960’s. Yet, stranger things have happened.