Next two games will seal MacDonald's fate at Villa

Former manager Brian Little backs caretaker to make job his own ahead of tonight's decisive Europa League tie

If Kevin MacDonald's temporary stewardship of Aston Villa is an extended audition for the full-time post of manager, he has two opportunities in the next four days to show he can command the stage after admitting he fluffed his lines in Sunday' surrender at Newcastle.

Randy Lerner, Villa's American owner-chairman, clearly wanted to weigh up MacDonald's capabilities at senior level – after the 15 years the 49-year-old former civil servant from Inverness has spent working with the club's reserve and youth players – while allowing him the opportunity to decide whether he wants the job.

Before the 3-0 rout of West Ham, the acting manager suggested "positive results" might sway him. Villa then drew 1-1 at Rapid Vienna; so far, so good. But after the 6-0 loss on Tyneside, where he confessed to a "naive" team selection, the pressure on him to deliver victories in tonight's Europa League second-leg game with Rapid and at home to Everton on Sunday is even greater.

MacDonald will again mix-and-match fringe and first-choice players with the Premier League fixture in mind. However, he should be able to welcome back Gabriel Agbonlahor, Carlos Cuellar and James Collins after injury as Villa strive to atone for last August's expensive exit against the Austrians at the same stage.

Brian Little, the Holte End hero who managed the side that finished fourth and won the League Cup in 1996, brought MacDonald to the club from Leicester and hopes events at St James' Park will not panic Lerner. "Kevin won't be fazed by managing a big club, whether he wants the job or not," Little said. "He's a strong character, very determined, but he enjoys his work. I'd like to think he can show one or two people he knows what he's doing. Anyone who knows him would have complete faith in him."

Handling big names would not be a problem for MacDonald, Little added. "If someone needs to be told, he'll tell them, but he also has plenty of encouragement and time to pass on his knowledge. At the top level it's all about technique, choosing the right pass and movement off the ball. Kevin's steeped in that from when he played in Liverpool's double-winning team [of 1995-86]. It was drummed into the players there."

Could the seemingly laid-back MacDonald dish out rollickings? "Look at me. I'm a mild-mannered person," Little said. "But football makes you flip now and then. Kevin can look after himself. Whether it's a rollicking or not, he does what he needs to do."

Before the Newcastle debacle – where his unusual candour pleased Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner – MacDonald had impressed the hierarchy by showing that he is his own man. He had broken with Martin O'Neill's policy of announcing the team during the build-up to kick-off, working for two days before the West Ham match on a faster, more expansive style.

He also gambled, successfully, on James Milner when he was on the brink of a £26m deal which saw Stephen Ireland come the other way; handed Stiliyan Petrov a more positive role; and most excitingly, gave 20-year-old Marc Albrighton his chance, which the winger seized by having a hand in all four Villa goals so far.

Now he has to show he can lift a side after a mauling. Little, now managing Gainsborough Trinity, is confident MacDonald will learn from Sunday. "Kevin can work with players of all abilities. He's not just a development coach but someone who knows the game inside out, up to the highest level. He's not frightened to do anything. I've no doubt he could do the job."

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam