Aston Villa v Manchester United: Villa sense a glimmer of hope as they look to end hoodoo

After 18 years, Guzan and Co seek elusive home win

If any one fixture summed up Manchester United’s supremacy over their Premier League rivals during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, it would surely be the one that awaits them at lunchtime today. United have not lost a League game at Aston Villa since 19 August 1995, when a 3-1 opening-day defeat to Brian Little’s team led Alan Hansen to infamously declare of that season’s eventual double winners: “You’ll never win anything with kids.”

In the years since, United have produced a series of routine victories and rousing comebacks at Villa Park, leaving seven different Villa managers frustrated as they compiled a record of nine wins and seven draws from their last 16 League visits, with just seven goals conceded. Factor in, too, a 3-2 FA Cup win when United scored three times in the last 13 minutes in 2002, and it is little wonder Gary Neville wrote in his autobiography: “I loved the ground, my favourite one away from Old Trafford.”

Yet the Holte End could be forgiven a glimmer of hope today. Twice in the last three years United have erased two-goal deficits at Villa Park but, as Neville noted this week, that collective “fury” which fuelled the late rallies of the Fergie era was absent as Everton and Newcastle United each ended their Old Trafford hoodoos in the past fortnight. Today it is Villa’s turn to have a go at David Moyes’s team.

According to home goalkeeper Brad Guzan, this is an opportunity for Paul Lambert’s men to go and get three points. “The so-called pressure, I guess, would probably be on them, knowing they are such a massive club that is probably at the moment not getting the results they would like, so for us it’s a chance,” he admitted.

It is tempting to picture opposition teams scenting blood as the opportunity comes round against a suddenly vulnerable United, but Guzan, speaking at Birmingham Children’s Hospital after the Villa squad’s pre-Christmas visit, offered a more careful reading of the situation. “They’ve hit a little bit of a bump in the road in terms of recent results but that in no way takes away from how difficult the challenge will be,” he said. “Any time you play Manchester United, regardless of what’s been going on in their season, it’s always a tough game – they’ve got world-class players that can change a game in a flash. I think they’re always going to have that aura, regardless of the situation they’re in.”

His wary tone is understandable. In November 2010, Villa led 2-0 going into the last 10 minutes before  Federico Macheda and Nemanja Vidic rescued a draw. More of the same followed last term with Villa two up after 50 minutes, only for a familiar sinking feeling to take hold: Javier Hernandez pulled a goal back, Ron Vlaar put the ball in his own net, and with three minutes left, Hernandez won it for United.

Guzan believes it would be a different story now. “If we are 2-0 up then yes, you’d like to think we would be able to hold on to that and get a result,” he said, suggesting they paid for a lack of nous last November. “That was our inexperience. Last year we had a lot of guys in their first year in the League and, before you know it, you find yourselves 2-0 up against Manchester United and it can be a bit of a shock.”

Guzan sees a Villa side hardened by their successful fight against relegation. They have tightened up defensively – the American’s five clean sheets so far equal last season’s total – and are five points better off than at this stage last year having earned some notable victories, including a 3-1 opening-day success at Arsenal and smash-and-grab wins over Manchester City and Southampton. “We know we’ve had a few good results,” he said. “Our performances have been OK, but there’s still room for improvement.”

That is certainly true. Christian Benteke’s nine-game goal-less run is his worst in a Villa shirt and their old inconsistency resurfaced with last weekend’s 2-0 loss at Fulham, ending a five-match unbeaten run. Their hopes today are not helped by Fabian Delph’s suspension and captain Vlaar’s struggle to be fit, but they will not be short on motivation. A victory would take them level on points with United – as well as ending that 18-year wait. “If that’s what the stats say, that’s what the stats say,” Guzan said. “We don’t look too much into that stuff – it’s about making sure we rectify our performance from last Sunday and making sure we can be proud of what we put out on the pitch.” Villa’s long-suffering fans might see it differently.

Aston Villa v Manchester U is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 1.30pm

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
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

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot