Aston Villa 0 Manchester United 2

Saturday 15th May 2004
Villa Park, Birmingham

Manchester United ended the Premiership season on a high after taking the full three points against Aston Villa last Saturday. In a game where some of United's youngsters finally started to show their full potential, the Reds played with the pace, passion and style that we have expected but rarely enjoyed this season.

Tim Howard was still in goals for United, and now looks set to be part of United's FA Cup final team for next weekend. Reports in the press suggest that Sir Alex is also going to select the youngsters Ronaldo and Fletcher for the final ahead of the England Internationals Nicky Butt and Phil Neville.

The game started off superbly. After some awesome attacking play by United, Villa had a wave of possession, which was broken down by a marauding Darren Fletcher. Fletcher passes the ball to the right flank, where Ronaldo took the ball in his stride. The Villa team unwisely gave the Portuguese superstarlet time and space on the ball. Ronaldo raced forward to the edge of Villa's 18-yard box before sending the ball into the bottom right hand side of the goal with the outside of his right boot. That was after just four minutes.

Ten minutes into the first half, United scored again. This time Ruud Van Nistelrooy was the goalscorer after further lacklustre defending by Villa. A high ball was pumped into the box by Paul Scholes which somehow miraculously got past both Villa defender Ian Ridgewell and Villa keeper Tommy Sorensen. All Ruud had to do was tap the ball into an empty net to all but win the game for United. But Ruud naturally did it with great style!

The rest of the first half told a similar story of United pressurising, but struggling to score. Thankfully this time we didn't actually need to score more goals, so as wasted chance after wasted chance went by, United fans could sit happily in their seats.

Going two-up so early on in the game is something we should be doing every week. It effectively kills the game off before it's even started, not to mention the fact that United have never lost a game in the Premiership after going 2 0 up. It's also the kind of trick that Arsenal have a nasty habit of doing. Particularly when you desperately want them to lose.

Villa had very few chances in the first half, so, when half time came, they must have been glad of the break.

The second half continued in much the same vein as the first, though Villa were slightly more gutsy after the break, and started to battle a bit more. The game didn't turn rough, but yellow cards started to be handed out for fun by the awful referee. The terrible decisions he made here come of consequence later on in the second half.

United pressed on, and, after substituting Ruud for Saha, came close to scoring a third goal that would have killed off the game for good. Saha also had a crucial part to play in defence; he managed to send Tim Howard sprawling in such a way that a Villa goal was ruled out for a foul on the keeper!

With fifteen minutes to go Fletcher, who had been running the midfield, made a slightly naughty tackle, and was sent off for two-bookable offences for the second time in his short career. His other booking was for kicking the ball away after the Ref. made yet another wrong decision.

You wouldn't have noticed that United were down to ten men, because they still dominated the game. Howard had very little to do in goals, and Villa had almost given up any hope they had of scoring.

With five minutes to go, Ronaldo joined Fletcher for an early shower. His two bookings? One for diving (allegedly), and one for kicking the ball just a second after the Referee had blown his whistle. Sir Alex called the decision "Bizarre", and can be quoted saying "People are going to laugh at that when they see it on TV".

United played very well, and look ready to take on Millwall next week. The Ref, meanwhile, showed his yellow card to nine people in a very tame game.

Aston Villa: Sorensen, De la Cruz, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Samuel, Hendrie (Whittingham 75), McCann, Hitzlsperger, Barry (Dublin 82), Angel, Crouch (Allback 57). Subs Not Used: Delaney, Postma.

Booked: Angel, Samuel, Hendrie, Hitzlsperger.

Man Utd: Howard, Gary Neville, Brown, Silvestre, O'Shea (Djemba-Djemba 73), Ronaldo, Fletcher, Phil Neville, Giggs, Scholes, van Nistelrooy (Saha 61). Subs Not Used: Carroll, Kleberson, Solskjaer. Sent Off: Fletcher (75), Ronaldo (85).

Booked: Ronaldo, Fletcher, Scholes.

Attendance: 42,573. Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).