MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Ashley Young of Manchester United controls the ball during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group C match against Benfica at Carrington Training Ground on November 21, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
What, exactly, is there to say about this game? Manchester United is one of the ten best teams in the world. Aston Villa, by comparison, is one of the ten best teams in the Premier League (maybe.) United is better in every sense, and significantly so; their superiority is such that no single Villa starter would come anywhere close to making United's starting XI and only N'Zogbia would have a remote chance of making their best 18. (Bent, Gabby, N'Zogbia and Given, for the record.) Coupled with the fact United is coming off an embarrassing loss to Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup, this has bloodbath written all over it (and no, I don't for one second believe that United's reserves losing a somewhat flukish game in a second-rate competition is somehow an indication that they're beatable.)
Is anyone confident of anything other than a dominating performance from United? Does anyone expect Villa to do anything but hide in their shell? I mean, I genuinely try not to be defeatist and unreasonably pessimistic about things, but a thorough examination of the facts makes me believe that I'm not being anything but a realist. If this game were to be played 100 times, I'd see United winning 75, a draw in 20 and Villa winning 5. (And yes, this is completely scientific; I used a TI-83 to subtract 20 from 75.) And if you're naturally inclined to optimism (and trust that my-as we've established, completely scientific-odds are legitimate,) you'll zero in on this 5 wins as a source of hope.Which, well, have fun with that I guess. Nothing wrong with optimism. Personally, I will be thrilled if the result doesn't end up completely obliterating Villa's goal differential, which is still respectable and may well be important come May. I'd also like it if Ashley Young could not score a goal; I think he's a tremendous player, I appreciate what he did at/for Villa, I have no qualms with the way he left the club, etc. I just think he's kind of a douchebag and I am sure he'd love to score at Villa Park, then he could very obviously choose not to celebrate and everyone could gush about what a classy sportsman he is. I also feel slightly bad for saying it, but I'm really hoping Phil Jones plays because he is an absolute joy to watch.
Of course I also hope Villa plays well and surprises me. I want this team to win, and getting a point off of United is always fun. I just don't expect it, and have tempered my enthusiasm to what I would consider a reasonable level. On the bright side, this game is on at 9:30 AM my time which means I can watch live without grogginess. First time in a while for that. And the fact that I'm excited for such a thing despite my overwhelming sense that Villa will be absolutely throttled is proof that I do still love this team. It's just currently the love you have for your slightly neurotic mother with alarming political views rather than the love you have for your wife (or the lust you have for your girl/boyfriend when you're 16, currently reserved for Montpellier. Seriously, Montpellier is awesome!)
Anyways, I don't know where I'm going with this, exactly. Villa is probably going to lose. By several goals. I will be moderately annoyed for fifteen minutes, then I will forget about it and go hang out with my wife. If they manage to get a point I will be in a good mood all day. If it's a win, I'll be in a good mood all week. It's all upside!