Aston Villa last night revealed their criteria for appointing a manager in succession to Martin O'Neill – and they appear to rule out Kevin McDonald despite the caretaker manager presiding over a second win in three Premier League matches yesterday.
MacDonald, whose side overcame Everton thanks to a rare Luke Young goal, had talked afterwards about remaining "undecided" over whether he wanted to be considered for the post. Villa's American chairman-owner, Randy Lerner, had suggested they discuss the matter today, but within 90 minutes of the final whistle Villa issued a statement which implied they were looking outside the club.
Signed by Paul Faulkner, the chief executive, the statement said: "Two traits we believe are of crucial importance are that candidates have experience of managing in the Premier League and a strategy for building on existing strengths in our current squad. We have thoroughly researched potential candidates and reached out to a variety of contacts within the game for advice and guidance, as well as keeping key staff informed and focused.
"We will now start the process of interviewing candidates with a view to an appointment in the near future. Kevin MacDonald will continue as caretaker manager until that time. Finally, we wish to make clear that our relative inactivity in the transfer market this window in no way reflects a change in direction or dilution of ambition, rather our reluctance to make decisions on players without a permanent manager in place."
Since MacDonald's experience of top-flight management amounts to two three-game spells, with Leicester in 1994 and Villa, it seems likely the choice the 49-year-old Scot has found so tortuous has been made for him. Yet if this was the reserve-team coach's swansong, he bowed out with the club sitting fourth in the table.
The game was watched by the England manager, Fabio Capello, who would normally have been delighted to see a consummate finish by an Englishman decide a contest. Unfortunately for the Italian, the scorer, in the early stages, was a right-back who announced his retirement from a seven-cap England career last year. Luke Young's moment of catharsis, after long periods out of favour with O'Neill and a summer in which he was almost sold to Liverpool, arrived after Marouane Fellaini lost possession. Ashley Young caressed a pass into his namesake's galloping stride and a curling left-footed shot from 12 yards beat Tim Howard.
David Moyes was exasperated after his team's record at Villa Park was extended to 23 games with one victory. They are without a win in three matches, their worst start since 1999. "From the first minute to the last we were in control," the Everton manager said. "We have to give Villa credit for the way they defended but we just can't get the ball in the net."
For Capello, there was much to ponder. Marc Albrighton, 20, filling Ashley Young's right-wing slot, demonstrated an ability to flash past defenders and voracious work rate. Everton's Jack Rodwell, 19 and occupying the same position, is a more solid performer but came off with a swollen foot, while Phil Jagielka suffered an ankle injury. Mikel Arteta, the Spanish playmaker who is eligible to represent England, showed an impressive passing range and repertoire of set pieces.
Everton dominated to an almost embarrassing extent. Arteta forced the first of several flying saves from Brad Friedel with a long-range free-kick, though the American was helpless in the 18th minute when Steven Pienaar's angled shot smacked the bar. Villa drew a fine double save on the hour from Howard who denied John Carew and Ashley Young. By then, Moyes had sent on Louis Saha for the ineffectual Jermaine Beckford. Saha soon tested Friedel and Rodwell's back-header drifted inches wide.
Villa fashioned a chance to put the outcome beyond reasonable doubt after Howard parried Ashley Young's shot to Albrighton, only for MacDonald's protégé to fire wildly over. Friedel's fingertip save from Saha in stoppage time ensured the miss will not come back to haunt him.
Aston Villa 4-4-1-1: Friedel; L Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Downing; A Young; Carew (Agbonlahor, 68). Substitutes not used Guzan (gk), Heskey, Cuellar, Lichaj, Bannan, Delfouneso.
Booked Collins, Dunne, Albrighton, Petrov.
Everton 4-4-1-1: Howard; Hibbert (Heitinga, 81), Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Rodwell (Coleman, 70), Arteta, Fellaini, Pienaar; Cahill; Beckford (Saha, 56). Substitutes not used Mucha (gk), Bilyaletdinov, Gueye, Osman.
Man of the match Friedel.
Referee M Jones (Chester)