Date: 2nd December 2007 at 6:47pm
Written by:

2002, 2004, 2007, 2008… it’s getting difficult to imagine a third round FA Cup tie without Villa v United as the teams have been drawn together again.

United will travel to Villa Park in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. It’s a familiar thing as it has happened for the fourth time since 2002.

We have plenty to savour from the previous meetings though. The 2002 tie was a real classic: we looked dead and buried as Villa stormed to a two-goal lead and were still two up with only 12 minutes to go. I must admit that in the 78th minute of that game, I felt we had little chance to progress.

However, in the 83rd minute we were already 3-2 up in one of the most amazing comebacks of the club’s history. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the then irresistible Ruud van Nistelrooy destroyed Villa’s hopes of a shock victory and steered United into the fourth round. It was a massive disappointment that after such a brilliant win, we got knocked out at Old Trafford by Middlesbrough.

2003 saw us avoiding Villa, with Portsmouth and West Ham beaten before an ugly defeat to Arsenal ended our hopes. The draw for next year’s FA Cup brought Villa again and though it was less dramatic, it bore a certain resemblance to the game of two years before.

Villa took the lead, through Gareth Barry I believe, but United gradually took control and again scored two goals in quick succession to turn the tie on its head and dump the Villains out. It was pretty straightforward: we were the better team on the day and went on to win the FA Cup by disposing of Millwall in the final, with Ronaldo on song.

An unbelievable Villa-less gap follows here as two years had passed without an Aston Villa v Manchester United FA Cup game. However, last season’s cup draw paired us again and it brought the prospect of playing them three times over a little less than a month.

United won the league games but were made to work hard at Old Trafford. Henrik Larsson scored on his debut but Baros, taking advantage of some lack of focus, equalised and our profligacy meant we had to wait until the 92th minute for the winner when Villa keeper Gabor Kiraly let in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s weak shot.

You don’t really have to be a genius to work out that we have won the previous three third round ties against Villa in the 21st century. Add to that that we haven’t lost any fixture at Villa Park since 1995 and that we have won there 4-1 this autumn and you might say we’ve got a favourable draw.

However, and be warned, a cliché is coming up, every sequences are bound to end sooner or later. Just think of Liverpool’s 85 years of FA Cup pain against us, ended by that Crouch header in 2006 in the game that started the deterioration of the relationship between Fergie and Ruud. So my ever pessimistic nature does not allow me to be entirely optimistic about our chances, especially seeing the opponents our biggest rivals have been drawn with…

But we can’t complain, surely. If anyone’s got the right to moan about this draw, they are the Villa fans and players…