Villa drew 2-2 away at Manchester United and Dave Woodhall is impressed.
Author Pete Davis once wrote a great book about the then-dominant Doncaster Belles womens’ team. During the time he followed them, they suffered a series of setbacks and towards the end of the seaosn they were struggling in the league when during one game, the opposition manager shouted to his team, “You’re only playing a name”. You can see where I’m going here, can’t you?
This isn’t the all-conquring Manchester United of Alex Ferguson’s time; it isn’t even one of the flatter to deceive sides that Ferguson and Ron Atkinson put together at great cost during the eighties. The Manchester United of 2019-20 are part of the mass of clubs who might finish sixth and might finish sixteenth. But, they’ve got that name and it’s one that’s cast a shadow over the Villa ever since 1993. And so regardless of how they might be playing at the moment, this was still a massive afternoon for players, supporters and Dean Smith.
Dean picked an unchanged side from the one that outplayed Newcastle, which was an indication that he was going to show a bit more intent than than Villa managers previous. And from the kick-off it worked as Villa were the better side in a way that hasn’t been seen here for a long while.
Jack Grealish was at his masterful best and put Villa into the lead with a goal after eleven minutes that would have already been wimnning awards if it had been scored by the opposition. Watching Jack now is a rare treat; a throwback to the days when Villa’s youth policy was producing the likes of Little, Cowans and Shaw. Those three, of course, played for great teams and we must hope that Villa continue to make progress if Jack’s not to decide one day that his loyalty to his own career has to finally outweigh his unquestioning 24 carat loyalty to Aston Villa.
Trezequet had one disallowed and also hit the bar just before half-time, but unfortunately just after United had equalised thanks to another bit of hesitancy from Tyrone Mings and an unfortunate ricochet off the post and Tom Heaton.
Taking everything into consideration it was no great surprise when United went into the lead after 64 minutes, but Villa’s response, rather than what seemed the inevitable capitulation, saw Mings equalising two minutes later. And if that was a genuine surprise, the subsequent VAR call going Villa’s way was borderline miraculous.
The rest of the gane saw Villa having to drop deeper as legs tired and substitutions were, yet again, unforthcoming. I’m loathe to citicise the manager, but I’d be interested to know why he never seems to think players need replacing in the later stages of games, or indeed, what Marvelous Nakamba’s done to upset him. Still, a point was what just about everyone would have settled for at the start of the gamne and it says a lot about the direction both teams are headed in that we were as disappointed not to win as the home supporters were.
Make no mistake, this was a big game for Villa. We’ve gone to Old Trafford and shown that we can matc a team who’ve been causing us nightmares for years, and not only that but come from behind to get a result. Even forgetting who the opposition were, Villa have got a draw away from home against a side much higher up the table. It was a point that could be vital at the end of the season and it was further proof that that we really don’t have to be afraid of anyone in this league.
There’s another hard game coming up on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, but Villa are improving all the time. Anything can happen from now on.