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."

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
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

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum