Manchester United v Aston Villa: Dean Smith keen to end Old Trafford hoodoo
There could probably be no better way for Dean Smith to celebrate signing a new contract than becoming only the second Villa boss since Tony Barton to win at Manchester United.
Since the latter took charge of a 2-1 victory on Bonfire Night, 1983, only Martin O’Neill has tasted triumph at Old Trafford, a Gabby Agbonlahor header delivering his team a 1-0 win a decade ago next month. All told, Villa’s record over the past 36 years at United consists of just that one victory, together with six draws and 26 defeats.
There is simply no other place where the club’s results have been so consistently futile. It was even the venue where relegation was confirmed in 2016.
“Listen, to be fair they were the most successful team for almost two decades under Sir Alex Ferguson,” remarked Smith when some of those statistics were put to him during yesterday’s pre-match press briefing.
“It was tough for anyone to go there. Yes, we have been having a tough time at Old Trafford but times are changing and, hopefully, that starts Sunday.”
The United team Villa will face tomorrow is a long way removed from the like which dominated during Ferguson’s reign. Their boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, enters the match under mounting pressure. But for all their troubles and for all the talk of decline, the Red Devils remain a major scalp, particularly for a newly-promoted club like Villa.
“You’re going to play in front of 76,000 fans,” said Smith. “It’s the biggest capacity, apart from Wembley, in England. It’s a massive club and you only have to look at the trophies they’ve won in their history.
“But they’re three points above us in the league and all you can do is play against what’s out there.
“They’ve got some very good players coming through. I like the way Ole has gone about his business. He’s got a young squad he’s progressing for the future, a little bit what we’re doing here.
“That takes time. It gives us an opportunity to go to Old Trafford and show what we’re all about as well. We feel we’ve left some points out there against these big clubs and that’s going to change sooner or later with the way we’re playing.”