Post-mortem: Aston Villa show glimpses of real top four quality yesterday but you can see it's another season away

I started this type of blog post a while ago but as most of you know, this is a new place for me on the web, so while it is almost the exact same, it is a little different and it has a new name, because this one is better and deep down, we all know that, just by looking.

So, to the format. Like I said, it is almost the same, but a little different. We're going to go straight to one paragraph from some of the nationals, they'll be the player ratings and commentary from me with my man of the match, referee watch, a video if I can find it, a final analysis of the match and then a look to the next match.

What The Papers Say

Oliver Kay, The Times
Finally, in the third minute of stoppage time, they claimed their reward. And if they can win while playing like this, with half a team missing, there is only one name on this Premier League trophy — and it is not Liverpool.
Kevin McCarra, guardian.co.uk
Some steps were sensible and restored balance. Nicky Shorey, who has often been out of favour, was picked at left-back. That meant Luke Young could be stationed on the right and there was no need for the midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker to be used in defence, where he had suffered at Anfield. Elsewhere, Barry and Petrov dovetailed impressively. In attack, Carew imposed himself to such an extent that the absence of the injured Emile Heskey was forgotten. Beside him the swift Agbonalhor rediscovered the confidence that had been eluding him.
Neil Custis, The Sun
At this point Villa were all over United. They should have had more but they were happy to sit back and just let two or three go forward to try and force another goal.
Sam Wallace, The Independent
Villa were excellent until United scented blood with Ronaldo's 80th-minute equaliser, and there were times when you could not conceive of them not winning. They play Everton next week in a game in which they must arrest their decline, now six points behind Arsenal in fourth place. Martin O'Neill's team were dominant in the early stages even though they went behind on 13 minutes.

The Goals


Ronaldo (13) 1-0; Carew (29) 1-1; Agbonlahor (58) 1-2; Ronaldo (80) 2-2; Macheda (90) 3-2.

Player Ratings

The player ratings are from Badger and he's even put in a commentary on each player. Only if I've felt it absolutely necessary have I added anything and if I did, my bit is slanty text.

6Brad Friedel - I can't put my finger on it, but I'm not convinced.

6Luke Young - Looked reasonably comfortable in his proper position but got caught out once or twice. Can be forgiven.

6Nick Shorey - Did okay, got forward. I thought he did really well and he added a much needed balance.

6Curtis Davies - Summed up the defence, in my opinion.

6Carlos Cuellar - Did okay.

7Gareth Barry - Excellent first half and ran the game.

7Stan Petrov - Hard working and made some good runs.

7Ashley Young - Some good balls in the first half, but didn't look as good second half.

6James Milner - Worked hard with little product. I was very surprised to see him come off, didn't think he deserved it and when Martin O'Neill did this, he broke one of his own rules.

7John Carew - Held the ball up well, still our biggest goalscoring threat.

7Gabby Agbonlahor - Poor first touch again, but got a goal. Unlucky with offsides at least once.

Aston Villa Man of the Match

I don't think it an easy one this time but I'm going to pick Petrov, but it was a close call between him and Barry.

Referee Watch

Yesterday, the linesman gave offside for Gabby twice when replays showed he wasn't offside. Am I the only one on the planet that would like an explanation? How can a linesman give offside if it wasn't. He couldn't have seen it was offside, because it wasn't and if he's using some sort of judgement on it, then he's wrong so he's clearly not good enough.

What I mean is, if he couldn't have seen it was offside how can he raise his flag? Surely, you have to be 100% on this if you are going to stop play and if you're not then you can't raise your flag. Something has to be done about this as it is spoiling the game and we're giving to much power to people in the game that shouldn't have it.

But. that isn't the real controversy. The real controversy and Martin O'Neill summed it up, was we were not given a free kick when we clearly should have had it and Manchester United scored. He wasn't happy.

I know my contemporaries come on TV and say the same thing but it's not the point. I tell you what if it had been the other way around it would have been a foul.
Martin O'Neill, April 5th 2009

For the sake of the game, somebody needs to deal with the referees but saying that it's not the biggest thing that is wrong and nobody is trying to fix that, so I guess we're going to have to accept it, but please, somebody, try and fix it. How can a linesman raise his flag when he couldn't have seen anything? It truly baffles me.

Final Analysis

We were desperately unlucky to not leave Old Trafford with three points yesterday but we should feel more confident in our teams ability to match Everton when they come to Villa Park next Sunday (more on that in a minute).

We dominated the midfield, mostly because Manchester United played three up front and three in the middle and we caused them problems when going forward but when we sat back, we invited pressure and I'm sure Martin O'Neill would have seen this and while he'll not say it was his fault, nor should he, he would have learnt a lesson.

Bottom line, it was a great match, we were very unlucky but we saw why we are getting better yesterday and why we are heading in the right direction.

Up next: Everton

The only reasons why we should not change our formation for Everton is if Everton come playing three up front. We saw yesterday why we are a better team with five in midfield, or an extra man; we like the space and freedom to move quickly and it almost paid off. It actually started to go a little wrong when we took Milner off, because we changed how we played the game.

Everton is a must win and we have to take the confidence from yesterday into that game and dare I say it, Villa Park is going to have a part to play too.

If we play like we did yesterday, attack the way we did and learn from where we made mistakes, next season will be better and the one after that will be much better, but for now, we just need to carry it forward to next week. If we do play like we did yesterday and have the space, we'll beat Everton and I reckon beating Everton next Sunday will secure us fifth place; a step in the right direction.

The name of this type of post is likely to change. I'm not entirely happy with 'post-mortem' but I had to call it something. If you have any suggestions, let me know below. Also, tell me if you think it too long or if it should have anything else. Thanks.