O'Neill is desperate to end Villa drought

Managers excited by Wembley date as they know Cup may offer best hope of silverware

Arsene Wenger may deride the Carling Cup as a "non-trophy", but one of the tasks facing Aston Villa and Manchester United tomorrow is not simply to put on a show that makes the Frenchman's words sound like sour sniping but to ensure that the final fulfils the promise of two pulsating semi-final ties.

Villa came from 2-0 down to Blackburn Rovers to win the second leg by a tennis score, while United dramatically squeezed past Manchester City. "If someone had told City and United 'this isn't a real trophy' they would have got short shrift," the Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, said. Sir Alex Ferguson expected "a different type of game" at Wembley but conceded it may not reach "the same level of emotion".

This is United's third final in five years, a record which underlines the store Ferguson now sets by the competition. Having scrapped a plan to rest key personnel for the return with City, he faces a similar dilemma over whether to start with veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and 27-goal Wayne Rooney tomorrow.

Since the game may represent United's best chance of silverware, the probability is that both potential match-winners will play. For Villa, who have not lifted a trophy since winning this cup 14 years ago, the only selection quandaries are whether to play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, incorporating Fabian Delph, and whether to retain John Carew at Emile Heskey's expense.

"The club has had a pretty poor time of it since winning the European Cup in 1982," O'Neill said. "They won the League Cup against United in '94 and again in '96 [against Leeds], but Chelsea at Wembley in 2000 is the only FA Cup final since '57. It's up to us to try to change that. It's something new for a lot of the players and I hope it's genuinely the start of something for this team."

Villa are also through to the FA Cup quarter-finals as well as vying for the Champions League place which remains O'Neill's primary target. "We can get beaten at Wembley and lose to Reading the following Sunday, but this is the sort of vision we had," he added. "We've been here three and a half seasons and I'd like this club to be involved in such matches in February or March in years to come.''

Ferguson and his team have been more frequent visitors to Wembley, this being the Scot's 27th final. Familiarity has scarcely curbed his enthusiasm. "You can't help but be excited coming to a final, but the only way to enjoy Wembley is by winning, and we've experienced both sides of it over the years," he said. "It's the ones you lose where you ask yourself, 'Did I pick the right team?'''

If he resists the temptation to rest Rooney ahead of England duty, United will possess an individual capable of unlocking a well-drilled, aerially powerful Villa rearguard with a flash of inspiration or raw power. O'Neill may look to his captain, Stiliyan Petrov, to prevent fellow Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov finding the space to feed Rooney.

Villa will seek to exploit the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young, whose counter-attacking threat will lead Ferguson to start with the fit-again Nemanja Vidic.

The rival managers have a strong mutual respect and enjoy, as Ferguson put it, "a cup of tea or a glass of wine" after a match. Something rather fizzier awaits tomorrow's victors. But while the importance of winning a trophy, even a so-called non-trophy, cannot be under-estimated, the relentless nature of the modern game means the result will be equally significant for both clubs in terms of the impetus it could provide for the remainder of the season.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past