I knew today boded well when word got out just before kick off that Leeds United had lost 6-1 at home to Watford. It doesn’t matter where that club is in the League pyramid, to hear that they’ve not only lost but have been annihilated is always very gratifying. Leeds could be at the bottom of the lowest league possible and it still would be too exhalted a position for me. I later hear that Mikel Aterta missed a last minute penalty as Arsenal drew 3-3 at home to Fulham. I wonder if Arteta was accosted by Fulham players the same way that Ruud Van Nistelrooy was by gloating Arsenal players like Lauren, Ray Parlour, Martin carthorse Keown and Ashley Cole (hiding behind Sol big boy Campbell) in 2003?
Paul Scholes lucky to escape a booking for a foul on Steven the truth Ireland early in the game
I walked into Villa Park about half an hour prior to kick off today with only the minimum of fuss. By West Midlands police standards, I was impressed that I was frisked only twice going into the stadium. From past experience with this shower, this was light touch policing. In the past at Villa Park, I’ve been threatened with arrest for smoking a cigarette (long before the smoking ban) and on another occasion, ejected from the ground by a policeman only to be offered a ticket by the very same policeman who’d just ejected me for £20.00. Today, they decided to conscientiously take 15/20 seconds to pat down/frisk each and every United fan who’d turned up at the turnstile with less than ten minutes to go before kick off. Don’t let it be said that they were trying to create an aggravated crowd situation by deliberately keeping some people out of the ground a good fifteen minutes after kick off. There were hundreds of empty seats in the upper tier of the Witton Lane stand whilst this suddenly very thorough police operation was being implemented.
Meanwhile, in the ground, we had a steward on a one man mission to make United fans sit down at the beginning of the game. He was telling people that they were going to be “ejaculated” (sic) from the stadium if they didn’t sit down (I kid you not). The only down point is that United will probably get a reduced allocation on spurious safety grounds at Villa Park next time they play there.
Raucous celebrations in the upper tier of the Witton Lane stand at full time (photo courtesy of Lee Thomas)
Early in the game, Villa fans were singing to us that You’re the shit of Manchester followed almost immediately by Fuck off back to London; make your minds up boys! I don’t think it’s any understatement to say that Aston Villa fans hate United. I can’t say it’s reciprocated. Aston Villa fans are the kind of folk your parents would order you to be nice to when you were a kid. They’re truly risible. Since Aston Villa last beat United at Villa Park in a League Cup match in October 1999, they and their fans have become like moths to a flame where United are concerned. Today was the third time since that night that Villa have blown a two goal lead against United at their home ground. They never learn Villa fans, when 2-0 up, they had all the wisdom and cool of a thirteen year old lad who has just been smiled at by the pretty girl in the year above.
On 19 minutes, they had a minute’s applause for their Leukaemia stricken Bulgarian international Stiliyan Stan Petrov, this is in recognition of his squad number. Immediately after the 19th minute, United fans were graced by the sight of these very same Villa fans making aircraft arm waving gestures. It appeared that they were apoplectic at the fact that United fans didn’t join in the applause but I wonder why. I’m genuinely sympathetic to Stiliyan Petrov’s plight and I wish him a fast and full recovery from his illness. Virtually everybody I know and most people I don’t know think the same way. The fact that me and my fellow reds didn’t join in the applause doesn’t mean we’re happy with the fact he is ill. It just means that we’re not going to join in some corny, maudlin and empty gesture to acknowledge his illness. Do fans of Man City have a minute’s applause on the 23rd minute of every game in memoriam of Marc-Vivien Foé? Should they? The answer to both questions is no. If Aston Villa fans want to do that, then fair play if it makes them feel good and righteous (and that is what is truly at the heart of this applause). Just don’t get the hump when we don’t join in. The first time they did it was when Stiliyan Petrov turned up for a Villa game against Chelsea, soon after his diagnosis. Then, it was a nice and presumably spontaneous gesture, now it’s just crummy.
Javier Hernandez’s shot deflects in off Ron Vlaar for United’s equaliser
I got a text at half time from Red Peter telling that United had enjoyed Barcelonaesque possession in the first half. Apparently United had 70% of the ball but for all that possession, I don’t remember any sustained pressure on Villa’s goal. What I vividly remember was Antonio Valencia getting pulled for a foul throw on 21 minutes. I see this in nearly every game I watch but the only time I ever see them penalised is at places like Turn Moss and Hough End. Referees seem to turn a blind eye to them in the professional game. In first half injury time Andreas Weimann slotted a side footed goal high into David De Gea’s goal. At the time, I was screaming for a foul on the opposite side of the pitch, I couldn’t believe that Christian Benteke had got the better of Smalling so easily without commiting a foul but having now seen it on Match of the Day, there was nothing wrong with it. Benteke dealt with Chris Smalling far too easily for my liking. Five minutes after half time, Villa scored again. Smalling was involved again when he inadvertently played Villa’s Austrian forward, Andreas Weimann onside for him to score his second goal of the game. He’d only scored twice for Villa in two years prior to today, now he’d just scored twice in six minutes.
Javier Hernandez heads home United’s winner in front of the Witton End on 87 minutes
There was talk last season of Javier Hernandez having second season syndrome. He certainly had a better first season than second but his first season would’ve taken some beating in any circumstances. Whatever the mutters were, he’s now coming back to the form that made him so lethal in his first season. Six minutes after Villa went 2-0 up, Hernandez brought United back into the match with a classic centre forward’s goal. The fear and apprehension of Villa fans was hanging thick in the air after this goal. They just knew what was coming. Six minutes after pulling a goal back, Hernandez forced an own goal from Villa’s Dutch centre half Ron Vlaar when he attempted a shot which was going off target but was deflected in. Villa fans now had a demeanour akin to that of a turkey on Christmas Eve. Apart from Andreas Weimann forcing a great save from David De Gea three minutes after the equaliser, it was relentless United pressure. Just after Paul Scholes was substituted for his heir apparent, Tom Cleverley, on 72 minutes, Robin Van Persie hit the bar twice in 47 seconds. Villa eventually relented on 87 minutes when Javier Hernandez headed in United’s winner from a Robin Van Persie free kick to set up scenes of sweet insanity in the United section reminiscent of Carrow Road and Ewood Park last season.
Thanks to Steve Black, Steve Armstrong and Rick McGagh for helping us get on the Monkey bus at pretty short notice and also my immeasurable gratitude to the geezer on that bus sat a couple of rows behind me who gave me a drink when I was parched on the way back. Thanks also to the enigma that is the Ralphie Milne Ultras for sorting my ticket out. Also nice one to the lads on the Monkey bus who, to the tune of Is This The Way To Amarillo, sang “Is this the way to Aston Villa, we’re gonna see a five goal thriller, obstructed view behind the pillar, Little Pea he scores for me” and my personal favourite to the melody of Let It Be, “Little Pea, Little Pea, Little Pea, Little Pea, Javier Hernandez, Little Pea”. A great day!