Manchester United and Aston Villa, the two sides that were the top two in the first-ever Premier League season but have since taken completely different turns. United went on to win another 12 Premier League titles under Sir Alex Ferguson whilst the Villains seemed to slowly drop down the league until their relegation from the top flight in 2015/16 season. They’ve bounced back since then however and returned to the Premier League under manager Dean Smith for this campaign and are already four points clear of the drop zone and just three behind United coming into this weekends fixture.
Over the years there have been some classic battles between these two and although it may not now be a title decider, these are still two of the bigger clubs in the country locking horns, so let’s take a look at five classic matches between the two.
5. A classic Fergie Comeback – Aston Villa 2-3 Manchester United: 2002 (FA Cup Third Round)
We start with a classic United performance under Sir Alex in 2002. Going to Villa Park is never easy and for 75 minutes United looked to have no chance of getting into round four. Villa were 2-0 up going into the last 15 minutes thanks to a goal from Ian Taylor and an own goal from Phil Neville but Sir Alex had the perfect man to come off the bench and that was none other than Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Coming on after 56 minutes for Luke Chadwick (who was only brought on after half an hour after an injury for Nicky Butt) Ruud turned the game around scoring in both the 80th and 82nd minute after current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer equalised in the 77th to complete a perfect five minute salvo for the Red Devils and book themselves a spot in round four.
4. Back to back League Cups – Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa: 2010 (League Cup Final)
Another comeback victory now and this time it was under the arch of Wembley as United came out 2-1 winners over Villa in the 2010 League Cup Final. Villa started the game brightly and took the lead through a fifth-minute penalty from James Milner after Nemanja Vidic brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor and Milner sent Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way to give the Villains the lead. United responded and equalised through Michael Owen before his replacement, the one, and only Wayne Rooney grabbed the winner 15 minutes from time. This was the only trophy for United in 2009/10 and they managed to do it with an injury-hit side with the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Nani and John O’Shea all on the side-lines.
3. ‘You’ll never win anything with kids’ – Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United: 1995
It seems weird putting a loss in this but it’s the game that sparked the infamous rant from Alan Hansen about Sir Alex’s young side which would haunt him for generations. Five of the famous class of 92 played that day with just Giggs missing out in a game that was well not good for United fans. Villa romped to a 3-0 lead at half-time with goals from Ian Taylor, Mark Draper and then soon to be red Dwight Yorke. United couldn’t fight back but Becks came off the bench late on to score a worldie and we went onto win the double to make Hansen look like an idiot so it all worked out in the end.
2. OH ROBIN VAN PERSIE – Manchester United 3-0 Aston Villa: 2013
The 2012/13 season was just the Robin Van Persie show. The Dutchman was scintillating all season long, scoring 26 Premier League goals and creating 15 more to send United to that illustrious 20th League title. The match with Villa in late April sealed the title for United and RVP celebrated it in style. The Dutchman got a hattrick, including that unbelievable volley to wrap up the Premier League in Sir Alex’s final season at the club. I miss us being this good.
1. MACHEDA – Manchester United 3-2 Aston Villa: 2009
Oh, that Martin Tyler voice crack gets me every time. What a game this was. The title race looked to be going down to the wire in 2009 with the scousers right on our tail heading into the closing stages. After back to back defeats, Liverpool had now gone top, having beaten Fulham the day before and United needed to win to go ahead on goal difference. Everything looked to be going swimmingly when Cristiano Ronaldo gave us the lead after 14 minutes but goals from Agbonlahor and John Carew gave Villa a 2-1 lead going into the last half an hour. The United bench on that day was just youth players and Ji Sung Park so it didn’t look too promising but a young Italian came off the bench after 61 minutes to make the difference. With 10 minutes to go Ronaldo hit the equaliser and Federico Macheda had his moment in the 90th minute to score that historic debut goal to send United on there way to the title, what a man.