It seems inevitable, these days, that Aston Villa are going to throw away a lead and find themselves with a draw--or worse, a loss. Of course, with Manchester United coming to Villa Park unbeaten, it also seemed almost written in the stars that the Villa wouldn't be able to pull off a win.
Had I been told before the match that Villa were starting a midfield with an average age of 21.75 (Stewart Downing's venerable 26 years pushes up the average) and were going to manage to go 2-0 up on United, I would've never believed such tall tales. Yet there we were, playing our what, fifth choice midfielder, with half the squad out with injuries, and managing to keep United to a draw.
Is it possible to be completely gutted but proud as hell at the same time? Think I've managed it
Is that what you're feeling today? Because if you're not--if you're stuck in the wallow zone--let me give it to you straight: Get your head out of your rear. Aston Villa have a ton to be proud of with regards to this match. The Villa reserves have been fantastic for years, and now we're seeing the products of that academy. How many other squads can have this many players on the injury list and still manage to put up a squad that can challenge the team sitting second in the league?
There's much that can be analyzed from this match, but I'll leave that for my more rational (and less sleep deprived) colleague, and just talk about the bright points. Like Barry Bannan's passing. While it was easy to see the interplay between Ashley Young and Stewart Downing that lead to Marc Albrighton's goal, it was a gorgeous pass by Bannan to Young that set up the opportunity.
And then there's Bannan's partner in life and love, Albrighton. Elf-boy was class today, making a fool of Patrice Evra and a general nuisance of himself on the right flank. Of course, he also missed an easy header in front of goal, but considering his all around performance, I think we can forgive the little guy.
As for our "old folks", well, we're still seeing a bit of weakness from Richard Dunne, but with Carlos Cuellar out with a calf injury, and Ciaran Clark struck down with the same malady, there's no way Cappy 3 is out of the lineup. Stephen Warnock was solid and, remarkably, made no stupid tackles. While some might disagree, I thought Downing had a great match, taking a beautiful shot at the end of the match that missed by maybe half an inch.
In the end, though, this match was about the kids, and it gives Villa hope for the future. We're wrapping up our young'ins with new contracts and making it clear that, as much of a cliche as this might be, the future is now. While this season may see Villa finishing much lower than we are used to, we're really on the cusp of something awesome.