United play Villa in the 5:30pm kick-off tomorrow night, ahead of the game we caught up with Matthew Turvey who runs the well respected Villa blog, Aston Villa Life. He answers some of our questions and gives his thoughts on Ashley Young, Villa’s hopes for the season, what he thinks of Paul Lambert and the Scot’s ability as a manager
Jordan@Old Trafford Faithful: When Ashley Young made his move to United last year, did you believe he had it in him to cut it at the top level? Also, one year on, what do you make of his performances?
Matthew Turvey (Aston Villa Life): I certainly felt that Ashley had the chance to make it at a top team because he clearly has ability and knows how to use it. With that said, I didn’t think he would be an every week regular simply because that isn’t how Sir Alex does things. As for his performances, he’s done as much as anyone would have expected – obviously United didn’t win the league, but I felt he performed as well as I’d have thought he would do.
Jordan: What would have to happen this season for you to consider it a successful one?
Matthew: Successful seasons short term for Villa are not what they used to be – anything beyond surviving would be the aim. Success might come in the form of the league cup, and having a good run is a welcome diversion from several seasons of underperforming in the league. That said, the league must be our focus – we can’t afford to do with Birmingham did two years ago and win a cup only to be relegated. I don’t believe we will be relegated though, to be fair.
Jordan: Villa are often known as a selling club, does it frustrate you that you always seem to lose your best players?
Matthew: In response, yes, Villa do sell players, but then so do many teams. I mean, United sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid – does that constitute being a selling club? Of course, Villa have lost names like Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, James Milner, and Gareth Barry to “bigger” clubs, but that’s the nature of the game – there will always be other clubs after your talent. In the case of Gareth Barry, he’s given our club ten years of service so he deserves a chance to be successful if our club hasn’t offered him that chance already. That’s life – if you don’t do well, your best players will want to move on.
Jordan: What do you make of Paul Lambert as a manager? Do you think he is the right man for the job?
Matthew: Paul’s a good fit for Aston Villa, and his abilities closely match what we need right now. Part of that is his ability to find bargains – a necessity following the financial issues the club have suffered post-Martin O’Neill – but he’s also a hard taskmaster and that is what the team needs now. Many have been surprised or shocked about him omitting Darren Bent from the time but, truth be told, Bent’s style of play doesn’t suit how Lambert expects his teams to perform. On a personal level, the guy is a good bloke, but then again so was Alex McLeish – a man’s personality traits are rarely the parameters on which his managerial career vs his ability to win
Jordan: What do you make of Villa’s transfer business?
Matthew: The transfers made were largely as expected. There were a large number of holes that needed plugging in the team, and when your budget is finite, that logically means players brought in will be cheaper. Lambert’s attitude of bringing in young players with a point to prove is far better than frittering the money away on past it professionals who only want to pick up a wage – we have had, and still have, far too many of those types. Christian Benteke looks quite the player already but, as you’ve intimated above, Villa’s biggest challenge will be keeping hold of their best players in future. Fingers crossed the squad can progressively improve until we don’t have to keep selling our best players – that’s some way off though.
Jordan: Who do you see as your most influential player this season?
Matthew: It’s hard to pick out an individual because a) we focus strongly on a team logic rather than real superstars nowadays and b) our performances, whilst improving, have been far from stellar. If I had to pick out one, I’d probably say Benteke – the dressing room love him, and he’s proving to be a bargain at £7m.
Jordan: Who do you think will win the league this season?
Matthew: It’s very early to pick out a front runner because things will change over the season. City obviously won it last season, but Chelsea seem a tougher proposition now that they have Eden Hazard amongst their ranks. United are always fighting for the top. If you had to force me to give an answer though, I’d probably go for Chelsea.
Jordan: Finally, a score prediction for the game tomorrow?
Matthew: Score predictions are challenging at the best of times, and many think we are due a beating for a number of reasons when you compare the quality United have vs a team like Southampton who has already beaten us in the league 4-1. With that said, I don’t think it’s going to be some kind of whitewash, and whilst we haven’t won at Villa Park against United since 1995, I’d say it could be a 1-1 draw or maybe a 2-1 defeat. However, Villa may surprise us all and play better as they seem to when there is no pressure – look at how we turned over City 5-2 in the league cup earlier this season…
Jordan: Cheers Matthew, I’ll go for 3-1 United!