United and Villa face off for national crown
Posted by nickogs20 on May 2, 2010
While it looks unlikely that the Premier League trophy will be paraded around Old Trafford next weekend, United do have the chance to clinch one national title inside the famous old stadium tomorrow as the Reds meet Aston Villa in a Bank Holiday Monday clash to decide the Barclays Premier Reserve League champions.
Each competing in their third Premier Reserve League Play-Off Final, United and Villa are the two most successful clubs in the short six-year history of the meeting between the Northern and Southern champions. Villa are appearing in their third consecutive final, having lost to Liverpool in 2008 and beaten Sunderland in last year’s final, while United’s two appearances came in the middle of the last decade, during current first team coach Rene Meulensteen’s time in charge of the second string. In 2005, the Reds beat Charlton Athletic 4-2 at The Valley with the help of a glorious Giuseppe Rossi hattrick, while 2006 saw a straightforward 2-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford.
On the scoresheet that day was one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has the opportunity to become the first man to win the Play-Off as both player and coach. The Norwegian has enjoyed a stellar start to his career managing the United second string and the national reserve title is the only trophy required for him to complete a clean sweep of the silverware available at that level. His opposite number is Kevin MacDonald, a member of Liverpool’s 1986 double-winning side who has been on the Villa coaching staff since 1992 and has also served as assistant manager with the Irish national side.
Both coaches are likely to field relatively experienced lineups tomorrow, with any notable contributors from the U18 ranks otherwise engaged – the Reds have an Academy League title decider at Everton on Tuesday afternoon, while Villa play the second leg of the FA Youth Cup Final against Chelsea later that evening. That figures to be more of an issue for Solskjaer, whose squad is already depleted by injury and will now likely be missing the likes of Scott Wootton, Reece Brown, Paul Pogba and Will Keane. He’ll hope to have Febian Brandy and Gabriel Obertan back from injury, and may seek to draft in Kiko Macheda after he was only an unused substitute at Sunderland today.
Ron-Robert Zieler is likely to start in goal in what will be his final appearance for the club before he joins Hannover 96 in the summer. Injuries permitting we may see a back four of Scott Moffatt, Ritchie de Laet, Oliver Gill and Joe Dudgeon, although with Wootton missing Saturday’s academy match, he may be pencilled in to take some part. Corry Evans, Rodrigo Possebon, Oliver Norwood and Cameron Stewart are near-certainties to start in midfield, hopefully joined by Obertan, with Brandy or Macheda the most likely contenders to play as the lone striker.
I won’t claim to have any such insight into how Villa may line up, although the United defence will need to keep a close eye on Austrian forward Andreas Weimann, who was top scorer in the Southern section this season with nine goals. Others to keep an eye out for are another Austrian, wide player Dominic Hofbauer, and highly-rated centre-back and captain Ciaran Clark, who has skippered England’s U19 side and has a couple of appearances for Villa’s first team. Given this weekend’s results, Martin O’Neill’s first team side don’t have a great deal left to play for, so we may also see young fringe players like Nathan Delfouneso and Marc Albrighton feature, something that will only make a tough task for United even harder.
The game kicks off at Old Trafford at 3pm tomorrow, and what better way to spend a (hopefully) sunny Bank Holiday Monday than watching United’s next generation bidding for more silverware? Season ticket holders, One United members and those either Under-16 or Over-65 can get in for free, while for everyone else the admission price is £5, payable at the OT turnstiles. If you can’t get down to the ground, MUTV will have live coverage of the match from 2.30pm, or keep an eye out for our updates via Twitter.
Would be great to see a decent turnout tomorrow in recognition of the brilliant job Ole, Warren Joyce and the players have done this season, and hopefully to provide some support as they bid to finish the season off in style.