A friend in need

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s trip to Manchester.

Teams that go to Old Trafford tend to be regarded as the support cast, but Villa’s arrival on Saturday was overshadowed more than usual by further debate over the future of David Moyes. After a midweek Manchester derby defeat United supporters were reported to have hired a plane to fly over the ground with a ‘Moyes Out’ banner, and I did wonder how many of those who chipped in for the display wanted Alex Ferguson sacked in 1989 – not that any of them will admit it.

United were either there for the taking or ready for a backlash, whichever cliché you wanted to use. In the end the crowd seemed behind Moyes at the start, the plane received a mixed reception and Villa went into a 14th minute lead thanks to an Ashley Westwood free-kick. So far so good on the falling apart club front, but Villa are never less dangerous than when they’ve scored and for the second time in eight days a one goal lead became a 4-1 defeat.

Losing at Old Trafford isn’t a crime. Villa were 7/1 to win and even an out of form Manchester United are a better side than we are. There was immense pressure on their team to perform, and pressure is something they’re used to. In those circumstances a defeat was always likely. However, Villa and in particular Paul Lambert made Moyes’ job as easy as it could possibly be.

The scoreline might have been a bit unfair but Villa got what they deserved. You can’t miss golden chances, give attackers the freedom of your half, fly into tackles and expect to get anything at Old Trafford, even if United are at their poorest since those halcyon days of “Fergie on the dole”. Once again Lambert chose his tactics to suit the opposition, and once again Villa looked alright when they tried to play but soon went back to the default option of long balls and surrendering possession.

What’s particularly disappointing is that these last two defeats have seen eight goals conceded, and this with a team whose main claim all season has been a much-improved defence. So, where do Villa go from here? The short-term answer is back to Villa Park, to face a Fulham side who look doomed, but who will be backed by almost 3,000 supporters. I’m not going for the obvious retort that this is more than they’ve brought put together since they got promoted, but they’ll be determined to enjoy themselves. Too many away supporters enjoy themselves at Villa Park. Losing at Old Trafford was never going to mean much in the general outcome of the season. Losing at home to Fulham just might.