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Match report: Villa 2-2 Man United

The Big Match: Villa v Manchester United Houllier proud of players but left with sour taste after late draw
Match report: Villa 2-2 Man United

By Dan Harrison

Villa were so close to ending 15 years of hurt on home soil against Manchester United - but the Red Devils came roaring back with two late goals.

It was in August 1995, after Villa's previous home top-flight victory over United, when Alan Hansen famously said: "You'll never win anything with kids."

The rest, as they say, was history. Sir Alex Ferguson's golden generation emerged and proceeded to deliver a string of honours.

Hansen's comments almost went full circle here - but it was the turn of an exciting batch of young Villa stars to come under the spotlight.

One of them - 20-year-old Marc Albrighton scored to give the hosts a two-goal advantage, adding to Ashley Young's 71st minute penalty.

Fellow youngsters Barry Bannan and Jonathan Hogg formed Villa's central midfield combination and put in a fearless display against established duo Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher.

Hogg and late substitute Chris Herd made their Premier League debuts, making it another proud day for everyone associated with the development of emerging talent at Villa.

The only thing missing was the victory. But, boy, didn't they come close?

In typical Man United fashion, the visitors staged a late comeback with Federico Macheda and Nemanja Vidic scoring in the last 10 minutes to ensure their side headed back up the M6 with a share of the spoils.

But there is no denying Villa deserved their lead in a thrilling contest that simmered in the first-half and then really caught fire after the break.

For all the fluid passing football played by both sides during the first period, it was the direct route that produced the best opening.

A punt forward by James Collins was expertly flicked on by Gabby Agbonlahor into the path of Young, who controlled and fizzed a half volley towards the bottom corner but Edwin Van Der Saar held on.

Attack proved the best form of defence for Gerard Houllier's men against the formidable Red Devils.

The hosts experienced plenty of joy down the flanks with Stewart Downing and Bannan linking up with menace.

The Scottish twinkle-toes carved open United's defence with a sublime through ball, which Downing read superbly and raced onto.

As he continued towards goal the England winger was stopped in the nick of time by Rio Ferdinand's last-ditch sliding challenge.

And before the break, Ferdinand thwarted Downing again to divert his right-foot drive out for a corner.

While United threatened on occasions, their football wasn't quite as free-flowing as we've come to expect.

But this was a credit to the way Villa stuck to their guns in restricting them.

Portuguese star Nani's masterful skills from dead ball situations had threatened to break the home side's resistance.

First, the United wide man's teasing low free-kick was flicked into the side netting by West Brown at the near post.

Then, from another set-piece, Nani shaped to shoot before cleverly slotting in overlapping full-back Patrice Evra, whose fierce cross evaded a packed penalty area.

The way in which Villa approached the second-half, it seemed only a matter of time before they broke the deadlock.

Albrighton headed narrowly wide of the post after meeting Downing's left-wing cross, before Van Der Saar beat away a stinging Downing effort.

The woodwork then came to United's rescue twice in quick succession.

Collins' bullet header from yet another pinpoint Downing delivery came back off the woodwork.

Moments later, Agbonlahor motored on to a loose ball inside the penalty area and saw his effort cannon off the foot of the post.

However, on 71 minutes the reward came. Agbonlahor's fine work out wide allowed Young to surge into the area and the speedy attacker was sent tumbling after a challenge from behind by West Brown.

The ex-Watford forward held his nerve to fire the spot-kick down the middle.

The roof was raised inside Villa Park - but Albrighton's strike five minutes later created even greater pandemonium among the claret and blue faithful.

Albrighton timed his arrival at the back post perfectly to slot home Downing's precise centre after Young had cleverly played in his team-mate.

It was backs to the wall from there on in for the hosts and United's pressure eventually paid off.

Vidic headed down in to Fletcher's path and Macheda collected the Scotsman's lay-off before firing high past Brad Friedel.

And with five minutes to go, Vidic despatched Nani's left-wing cross with a diving header.

VILLA: Friedel; Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Bannan, Hogg, Downing; Young, Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, Lichaj (for Albrighton, 88), Delfouneso (for Agbonlahor, 78), Osbourne, Herd (for Hogg, 90), Lowry, Johnson.

MAN UTD: Van Der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Brown; Park, Carrick, Nani, Fletcher; Hernandez, Berbatov. Subs: Amos, Smalling (for Park, 86), Fabio, O'Shea, Obertan (for Hernandez, 73), Macheda (for Berbatov, 73), Gibson.

AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 13th November 2010
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