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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory