WHEN Manchester United roll into Villa Park on Saturday evening, Aston Villas bogey-team will include another potential thorn in Martin ONeills side in the form of a brilliant Bulgarian.

Fortunately for Villa, they now boast one of their own.

The addition of Dimitar Berbatov to a United attack already dripping with Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo is a terrifying thought for anybody of a claret and blue persuasion.

Even without the brooding Bulgarian, the Red Devils routed Villa by an aggregate score of 10-1 during three one-sided encounters last season.
Sir Alex Fergusons champions pulled off a Premier League double with 4-1 and 4-0 victories and compounded ONeills misery with a 2-0 FA Cup win at Villa Park.

Which is why its just as well that, while the Old Trafford artisans possess £30million man Berbatov, Villa can now call upon a virtual new signing of their own from the same shores. Stiliyan Petrov.

The former Celtic midfielders s6.5million transfer fee two seasons ago was nowhere near the price tag that his sulky compatriot has to carry on his shrugged shoulders following his move from Tottenham Hotspur.

However, Petrov would be the first to admit that he has taken much longer than Berbatov to adjust to the pressures of expectation and reputation at a new club.

Luckily for Villa, at a time when they are clinging to the coat-tails of United, Arsenal et al in their quest for a Champions League berth, Petrov has finally announced his arrival on the scene.

The Bulgarian Frank Lampard that ONeill was hoping to unleash onto the English top flight has never materialised, despite Petrovs reputation as a goalscoring midfielder, famed for attacking bursts, north of the border.

Instead, through a period of patient reinvention and a transition from being the source of fans agitations to being the source of their affections the 29-year-old has now established himself in a deeper role protecting the Villa back four.

It is a transformation that has not been lost on his team-mates, who felt Petrov was an unsung hero in Saturdays break-through victory at Arsenal, especially as many of the plaudits were shared between the forwards and the defence.

Winger Ashley Young, for one, believes it is no coincidence that Villas defeats against Newcastle and Middlesbrough came during Petrovs injury-enforced absence, while the glorious win at the Emirates marked his first game back.
 
"It was a massive team performance and I thought everyone dug deep, but the midfield three was key for us, said Young. "We won the game there. They were brilliant.

"Stan (Stiliyan) coming back into the team was vital. Hes been brilliant all season.

"In my opinion, he has been our best player.

"It was great to have him back and I thought we looked good with him in there. He was immense."

Meanwhile, Villa defender Nick Shorey could be given an instant recall for the United game with Carlos Cuellar nursing a thigh strain.
 Shorey missed out at the Emirates following a poor performance against Middlesbrough and Luke Young deputised at left-back.

Cuellars injury, however, could see a quick return for former Reading full-back Shorey with Young reverting to the right side of defence.
"Carlos is extremely doubtful for the game with a thigh problem," said ONeill.
 
He continued to play on at Arsenal and he will be struggling for fitness.

will be a blow, and we will wait and see if there are other set-backs now with those away on international duty.