DISREGARD all those statistics about the number of years Aston Villa have gone without beating Manchester United.
Forget the amount of defeats Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have inflicted on their claret and blue counterparts in the past however many meetings.
Ignore the chasm that, until recently, had opened up between the clubs in terms of their respective Premier League positions.
For a true reflection of the stranglehold United have had over Villa lately, just consider this statement from Gareth Barry.
“I have the distinction, if that’s how you put it, of being one of two Villa scorers here on home soil against United in the past six seasons – and that was in an FA Cup game that we lost 2-1,” explained Barry. “That’s not good enough and we must try to improve on that record on Saturday – not just in terms of goals against them but also results.
“We’ve only won once in recent seasons and that was a Carling Cup game in 1999 when they sent a team of youngsters.”
When a team’s most influential player cites as his highlight a consolation goal he once scored in a lost cup tie against the Red Devils it really confirms the paucity of positives Villa have gleaned from these fixtures.
Villa Park has provided a particularly warm welcome for the champions in recent times and the United team have gratefully taken everything on offer.
However, while Barry acknowledges tomorrow’s game as the most prestigious date on Villa’s fixture list, the midfielder is yearning for a break from the established tradition.
“There is no bigger game on the Villa Park calendar than Manchester United,” he said. “They are clearly one of the biggest club teams in Europe.
“Their history proves that, particularly in the Premier League years under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Just take a look at their trophy cabinet. That’s all the evidence you need.
“That tradition stands them in good stead whenever they take to the field but we must also be aware of their tremendous record here at Villa Park.”
Doubts surround Dimitar Berbatov’s chances of playing for United tomorrow after he picked up a hamstring injury during Bulgaria’s 6-1 defeat to Serbia on Wednesday. Even without the former Tottenham striker the Old Trafford giants boast a feared strikeforce, including Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, it is the defensive solidity of United which Barry feels has been the foundation of their consistent success.
“The fact we haven’t scored many goals against them is evidence that they build from a solid foundation at the back,” he added. “They are so impressive defensively and they pride themselves on keeping clean sheets. They work on stopping the opposition and then let the midfielders and strikers win games.”
Meanwhile, Wayne Routledge has joined Championship club Cardiff City on a two-month loan after lack of first team opportunities at Villa Park.
Routledge, who is eligible to play in Cardiff’s match at Plymouth Argyle tomorrow, has started just two Villa games this season, Uefa Cup home ties against FH Hafnarfjordur and Litex Lovech.