Aston Villa and the tide of history

Villa draw with Manchester United, Dave Woodhall is encouraged by what he sees.

Damp, horrible weather, January, 5.30 kick offs, Manchester United at home. All these things belong together; may as well get them out of the way in one go. They’ve already stopped us in one it’s our year… quest this week, so there was no better time to finally beat them at Villa Park.

With the usual array of absences, Villa’s team line-up was a bit on the predictable side. One new signing started and another was on the bench. It’s likely been a long time since the one on the bench had such a young and inexperienced collection of colleagues sitting next to him, which was further proof that the January spending spree can’t be over yet if we’re going to do anything more than make up the numbers for the rest of the season. Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings started together again, which was an interesting choice if nothing else.

Over the years this fixtrue tends to go one of two ways. Either we match them for an hour, they make a couple of game-changing subtitutions and they eventually run out easy two-nil winners. Or we go two up, look comfortable for a while, they make a couple of game-changing substitutions and we blow it. Today was much like that – the too-goal lead, the substitutions and the comeback that looekd unlikely twenty minutes earlier. But what a difference.

The visitors weren’t exactly looking comfortable – in fact, apart froma poor styart Villa had most of the game and the best chances. Unfortunately a mistake from Emiliano Martinez (he’s allowed one) and a poor pass from Morgan Sanson seemed to have put the game beyond us, yet again. Enter the game-changing substitutes.

Phillipe Coutinho’s arrival galvanised the crowd and inspired his team-mates. I’m not sure exctly what it did to Tyrone Mings, but he strode out of defence with the ball like Paolo Maldini to begin the move that led to Jacob Ramsey’s goal. There was a glimmer of hope, and there was more of it four minutes later, when Ramsey laid on a straightforward chance to enable Countinho to complete a memorable debut.

We couldn’t get the winner and so the second-most embarassing hoodoo in history continues. That minute detail aside, there was so much to enjoy, despite the weather. Lucas Digne made a promising debut, Emiliano Buendia had perhaps his best game snnce his arrival, apart from his mistake for the goal Sanson is looking more assured all the time. Jacob Ramsey was awesome, while the other game-changer, Carney Chukwuemeka, showed during his time on the pitch that Villa’s conveyor belt of midfield talent keeps on rolling.

The only problems that today showed are the old ones – Watkins and Ings don’t work together, never have and never will, while the midfield three that started the game are individually quality players but perhaps all of them are too similar for the trio to work properly. Add some steel into that area, stick one of our sidelined wingers in the team to replace a forward and the season might not be over just yet.