Mischa Wilmers’ Sunday Column – Aston Villa seal historic win at Old Trafford

Manchester United fans watched the Chelsea match against Everton with baited breath. A draw would mean they could go level on points with the Blues provided they won their game against Aston Villa in their late kick-off.

A win for Everton and United could overtake Chelsea at the top. It was an exhilarating match with Chelsea going ahead twice, only for Everton to equalise both times. The match ended 3-3, a result which will concern Chelsea Coach Carlo Ancelotti. His side have now gone four matches without a win and with United not far behind the league leaders he will be hoping for better performances from his team in the Christmas period. While Everton’s attackers deserve much credit, Chelsea were below par defensively and all three goals could have been avoided. One positive to take out of the game is that Didier Drogba’s second goal was his 13th of the season, making him the Premier Leagues leading scorer. Louis Saha’s equalising goal for Everton puts him not far behind on 10 goals.

United took on Aston Villa at Old Trafford hoping they could bridge the gap between them and Chelsea. Aston Villa have never won at Old Trafford in the history of the Premier League so Martin O’Neil’s side must have been delighted with a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a first half strike by Gabriel Agbonlahor. Sir Alex Ferguson however was left fuming at what he considered to be a poorly calculated amount of stoppage time added on after 90 minutes. After the match he called for the decision of how much time should be added on to be taken out of referees’ hands, in an outburst which will not have helped to better his already frosty relations with Premier League referees. Villa now lie in third place, only four points behind United who are three points behind leaders Chelsea.

The Sunday papers have largely concentrated on Aston Villa’s historic win at Old Trafford to run as their main sports headline. The Sun screams,“FERGIE AGRO: Gabriel stops United moving joint top” whilst in The Observer Joe Lovejoy also praises the England striker: “The goal Gabriel Agbonlahor buried for Aston Villa after 20 minutes was his eighth in 16 Premier League appearances this season, and those who still doubt whether he can be effective against top-quality opposition should bear in mind that he has now scored against United in each of the past four seasons.” The forward has been in impressive form this season and if he repeats this performance often enough he stands a chance of being selected for the World Cup squad.

Naturally, his goal is not one which will have delighted Michael Owen who started on the bench. In The Independent Ian Herbert writes that United’s loss was not entirely surprising given their form this season: “It wasn’t the most improbable, though. United’s struggle to finish games which they dominate like this has been a recurrent theme of this season.” Aston Villa on the other hand, are beginning to look as though they belong in the top four and if their good form continues they could finish the season with a Champions League spot.

Chelsea’s match against Everton has also grabbed the headlines with The Independent reading: “Drogba double makes point for leaky leaders” and in The Observer Amy Lawrence points out that, “Once upon a time, the classy finishing of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka would have been more than enough to ensure a comfortable three points. But the astonishing vulnerability of Chelsea’s rearguard presented Everton with gift after gift.” In The Telegraph Jeremy Wilson agrees with most pundits that Chelsea’s shaky defence was at fault for the goals they conceded: “Chelsea’s usually reliable defending was undermined by moments of panic, uncertainty and even some internal bickering as Everton scraped their way to an unlikely draw.” It is a problem which needs to be addressed if Chelsea are to continue to mount a title challenge this season. Yet if they continue to defend as they have done in their previous four games they can wave goodbye to any chance of domestic glory.

In other news Arsene Wenger has hit the headlines in several papers with The Observer reporting that the Arsenal manager is planning to take legal action over the injury sustained by Robin Van Persie while on international duty with Holland. The injury-prone Dutch striker will be out for a large amount of the season, a fact which has dented Arsenal’s title hopes. Wenger is quoted as saying: “I expect financial compensation for the damage it can make to the championship and the salary involved. It is especially frustrating to lose your players for the rest of the season in a friendly game.” Despite Arsenal’s injury problems The Mail on Sunday claims that Wenger still believes his side can win the title. Currently, Arsenal have two games in hand over their main rivals and should they win both of them, the Gunners would be level with United. Wenger is reported to have said:“I believe the gap is closing on those two. I said it was not finished and that Chelsea would drop points and you all look at me like, This guy has lost the plot.” Much will rest on how his team fairs against Liverpool today.

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