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Aston Villa 0 United 2

United went to Villa Park with a sense of deja vu, having played so often there in the FA Cup. For the current crop of players they could look at 4 ties against Villa in the cup in recent years and the recent 4-1 league victory, as well as several semi finals at Villa Park all of which saw us winning. And for the fans too memories of Cantona’s performance against Chelsea there in the 1996 semi, the epic 1999 battle against Arsenal, as well as the 3-2 comeback against Villa that saw one of van Nistelrooy’s finest performances in a United shirt. But a great track record meant very little going into this game, especially on the back of some less than impressive results and performances over the Christmas period.

Villa are a good Premiership side now, and are not an easy team to play against. Luckily for United, however, their crowd did not show up and empty gaps in the stands allowed the away support to take over the stadium. Whilst it spilt over several times with a few fans invading the pitch and a flare being thrown on, overall the away fans did nothing more than get behind their team for 90 minutes and send a message out in the wake of Ferguson’s comments. “Fergie give us a song” and “our support is fucking shit” were sung out ironically as the country watched live on BBC.

On the pitch the game had all the potential to be a classic. Yet United’s 4-5-1 formation means it was rather dire, a word over-used by the phone ins afterwards. The game ended after 90 minutes without the United keeper having made a save, and United did not exactly play fluid attacking football either. At half time there were few highlights to show on the screens, and after 70 mins not much else had happened either. Then enter Wayne Rooney. Twenty minutes of fantastic football later United won the game 2-0 with the substitute and Ronaldo combining to tear Villa apart. Rooney has been criticised a lot this season but the facts speak for themselves; he has not appeared in any game that the team has lost and has single-handedly turned contest such as this one. At the final whistle Rooney rightfully won adoration from the away support and the footballing nation. What a way to return from illness.

Yet again United fans will be watching the draw for the next round, ironically with the hardcore unlike most other fans wanting an away draw. That way we can hope for a new ground to visit, but also can stop the Glazers getting their hands on more of our money in the automatic ticket scheme. Whilst Liverpool draw at Luton the real Reds go marching on, on, on!

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