Villa make merry with United's fledglings

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The Independent Online

THE BURDEN of domestic congestion will encroach even less on United's quest for higher glory after Villa, with goals from Julian Joachim, Ian Taylor and Steve Stone, eliminated them from the Worthington Cup. Already exempted from the FA Cup, United's willingness to see this competition removed from their fixture list was made clear from the moment they submitted their team sheet.

THE BURDEN of domestic congestion will encroach even less on United's quest for higher glory after Villa, with goals from Julian Joachim, Ian Taylor and Steve Stone, eliminated them from the Worthington Cup. Already exempted from the FA Cup, United's willingness to see this competition removed from their fixture list was made clear from the moment they submitted their team sheet.

United put out a line-up containing so many unfamiliar names that six - three of the starting eleven, three on the bench - were not even among the 35 listed in the match programme. Only Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jordi Cruyff and Mark Bosnich would command ready recognition outside Manchester. They and Michael Clegg were the only four to have started a match this season, with the 18-year-olds, John O'Shea, in central defence, and Luke Chadwick, on the left of midfield, both making their senior debuts, although the latter already has an England Under-21 cap.

It was not unexpected. Even so, the 33,815 who paid for tickets - the second largest attendance at Villa Park this season - could justifiably claim to have been sold a dud.

The home side, by contrast, put out their best available side and United's fledgling back four, given a fairly brutal introduction to the ways of the Premiership, deserved credit for reaching half-time only one goal in arrears.

Joachim gave Villa their advantage, spinning away from John Curtis and Ronnie Wallwork inside the box and sending the ball swerving past Bosnich, much to the delight of a home crowd already giving their former goalkeeper a hard time.

However, two saves by the out-of-favour Australian, as keen as any of his young colleagues to make a good impression, redressed the balance, denying Joachim a second and conceding a corner from Taylor's header.

Going forward, especially when Chadwick and Jonathan Greening were involved, the youngsters displayed the brightness associated with Sir Alex Ferguson's schooling. But when, only three minutes into the second half, Taylor lashed in Villa's second from a long throw by Mark Delaney, a home win became the only outcome imaginable.

The margin might have been even more comfortable had Bosnich not tipped a Lee Hendrie shot over his bar or had the substitute, Darius Vassell, not seen his best effort hit a post. After coming off the bench in the 74th minute, Stone completed the rout when he scored Villa's third in stoppage time.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Enckelman; Delaney, Ehiogu (Watson, h-t), Calderwood, Barry; Boateng, Taylor, Hendrie, Thompson (Stone, 74); Joachim (Vassell, 57), Dublin. Substitutes not used: Merson, Oakes (gk).

Manchester United (4-1-4-1): Bosnich; Clegg, O'Shea, Curtis, Higginbotham (Healy, 66); Wallwork; Cruyff, Greening, Twiss (Wellens, 73), Chadwick; Solskjaer. Substitutes not used: Notman, Culkin (gk), Roche.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

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