Carling Cup final preview
Martin O'Neill is searching for his first major honour as Aston Villa boss as he aims to stop Man Utd retaining the Carling Cup.
By Jonathan Witty
Last Updated: 28/02/10 11:55am
Martin O'Neill is searching for his first major honour as Aston Villa manager as his side aim to stop Manchester United from retaining the Carling Cup at Wembley on Sunday.
United have never retained a cup competition and O'Neill will be hoping to draw inspiration from that statistic as he aims to win his third League Cup as a manager.
The former Celtic boss has pedigree in this competition, having lifted two trophies with Leicester and he is keen to earn Villa their first cup win since their League Cup triumph over Leeds in 1996.
"This is a fantastic challenge," O'Neill said.
"I am well aware of the history of this football club. Trying to restore it to its days of former glory seems a long way away, but why not try?
"It is nearly 25 years since they won the European Cup but that is the dream."
Before their 1996 victory, Villa last lifted a trophy with a 3-1 demolition of United in 1994, but since then United have dominated contests between the two sides, with Villa only winning twice against Sir Alex Ferguson's men in 37 attempts.
This season has seen a shift in power though as Villa beat United 1-0 at Old Trafford before holding the reigning Premier League champions to a 1-1 draw at home.
Ferguson fielded a youthful side for the first three rounds of the competition, but quickly changed his selection policy when facing Manchester City at the semi-final stage.
Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and Darren Fletcher all featured in that tie and Ferguson looks set to continue with a more experienced side against Villa.
With Rooney missing out on last year's showpiece through illness, United's top scorer will be keen to make amends.
The former Everton trainee is being touted as a successor to Cristiano Ronaldo as PFA Player of the Year, and Villa will be have to be wary of the 27-goal striker adding to his tally on Sunday.
Aston Villa news
Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov is winning his battle to be fit after the Bulgarian resumed training after a virus forced him to miss the midweek FA Cup win over Crystal Palace.
Villa boss O'Neill appears to have no major fresh injury worries, and goalkeeper Brad Friedel, central defender James Collins and striker Emile Heskey will come into contention after being rested for the Palace match.
Reserve goalkeeper Brad Guzan has played in all of Villa's previous matches in the competition this season but has looked uncertain in recent games and O'Neill is likely to choose the experienced Friedel ahead of him.
Man Utd news
Holders United will be without centre-half Rio Ferdinand, who has suffered a recurrence of a back injury that has troubled him throughout the season.
Ferdinand withdrew from United's team for the home clash against West Ham in midweek and will also miss England's friendly with Egypt on Wednesday.
Ferguson will also be without Anderson after the midfielder suffered knee ligament damage in the 3-0 win against the Hammers. The Brazilian midfielder was taken off in the first half and has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs will miss out on the chance to win his third League Cup winner's medal as he is still recovering from a broken arm and Nani is serving the last game of his three-match suspension.
Possible starting Xls:
Aston Villa: Friedel, Warnock, Collins, Dunne, Cuellar, Petrov, Milner, Downing, A.Young, Agbonlahor, Heskey.
Man Utd: Foster, Neville, Vidic, Brown, Evra, Carrick, Fletcher, Scholes, Park, Valencia, Rooney.