Vidic steals in to save day as Villa's boys grow into men

Aston Villa 2 Manchester United 2: United rescue their unbeaten record with two late goals in thrilling draw

After Roberto Mancini's Italianate negativity had killed the Manchester derby in midweek, Gérard Houllier's more expansive approach and Sir Alex Ferguson's response produced one of the best halves of football seen this season, for which both sets of supporters rightly awarded their team a standing ovation. The applause from Manchester United's followers reflectedrelief at having snatched a draw after trailing by two goals with 10 minutes to play; the home crowd's appreciation combined frustration at surrendering that lead with pride at their young side's display.

It was after this fixture 15 years ago, of course, that Alan Hansen famously informed the nation that "you win nothing with kids". Unitedproved him wrong that season but for now they remain caught in transition. Ferguson, relieved as he was, knew that a draw was insufficient, offering Chelsea the opportunity to move six points ahead of them by beating Sunderland today.

Yesterday, however, Villa were really the team who sent out the boys to perform a man's job. Barry Bannan and Jonathan Hogg in central midfield were not only fresh-faced but pint-sized, yet both did well. Villa were also short – in both senses – further forward, the absence of John Carew and Emile Heskey leaving Gabriel Agbonlahor to fight for the crosses sent over by Marc Albrighton and Stewart Downing. Unsurprisingly, he tended to lose out to Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

When Villa played the ball on the ground, however, after hitting the frame of the goal twice in three minutes, Ashley Young won and con-verted a penalty and then Albrighton tapped in Downing's low centre. But with the Premier League's last remaining unbeaten record apparently a lost cause, Federico Machedaretrieved one goal and Vidic headed the equaliser. Six of United's seven away games have now been drawn, and Ferguson's emotions were understandably mixed.

"We could have lost six goals in the second half," he said without great exaggeration. "Great credit to Aston Villa for the way they got stuck in, tackled and fought. It made it very difficult for us. But when you're two-nil down with 10 minutes to go and get a point, you have to be pleased. And another five minutes and we'd have won the match."

He was probably right about that. Even after equalising, United kept Chris Smalling, a centre-half, up with the attack, and forced three chances in added time alone. For Houllier, feelings were equally mixed. "If someone had said at the beginning that we'd draw with United with the kids we had out there, we'd have taken that," he said. "But we thought we should have won."

Sportingly, he would not be drawn on whether two United players might have been sent off: Wes Brown for denying Ashley Young a scoring chance in conceding the penalty; and Vidic for wild celebrations with the crowd when he had already received a yellow card.

Fabio Capello in the directors' box saw Ferdinand do well, Michael Carrick play more patchily. Downing was the star for him out on the left, while Agbonlahor is still struggling for full fitness after his recent groin operation. Frustratingly for the England manager, who is short of options at right-back with Glen Johnson not playing well when he is playing at all, the two players in that position here were Luke Young and Brown, both of whom have voluntarily terminatedtheir international careers.

Carrick and Darren Fletcher might have been expected to exert greater control over their youthful opponents. The upshot was stalemate in a disappointing first half.

The second half was a different tale from first to last. Albrighton twice outmuscled Park Ji-Sung to break away without reward, then frittered away the best chance of the first hour with a header across goal.

In the 66th minute James Collins headed a Downing cross againstthe underside of the bar and just afterwards Agbonlahor shot against a post. United, under the cosh,finally received a telling blow when Agbonlahor played in Ashley Young, who was fouled by Brown before calmly putting away the penalty.

Ferguson immediately pulled off the ineffective Berbatov and Javier Hernandez only to see Villa score again through Albrighton. But as Villa sat back Macheda thumped in from Fletcher's back-heel and Vidic, unmarked at the back post, headed in Nani's centre.

Attendance: 40,073

Referee: Mike Dean

Man of the match: Downing

Match rating: 7/10

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
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

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
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn