McLeish expects to keep Bent
Villa boss does not think striker will leave in January
Last Updated: December 3, 2011 9:07am
Darren Bent: Alex McLeish is confident the striker will stay at Aston Villa
Alex McLeish has admitted that Darren Bent is a vital player for Aston Villa but does not believe he will have a problem in holding on to the striker.
Bent has been the subject of speculation linking him with a move away from Villa in January, even though it has been less than a year since he arrived at the club in an £18million switch from Sunderland.
Ashley Young and Stewart Downing - the main creators for Bent during the second half of last season - departed Villa in the summer but McLeish is confident the former Tottenham player will remain.
When asked if he faces a struggle to retain the services of Bent, McLeish said: "I don't think so. I've not heard anything. As far as I'm concerned, he's here for the long run.
"We need him. He's a terrific finisher. Sometimes he only needs one chance. That's the value of someone like Darren Bent.
"If we can create one or two sniffs (of a goal), then Darren will be in there."
McLeish was resigned to losing Young to United shortly after he replaced Gerard Houllier in June and is not surprised at how quickly the player has made an impact with the Red Devils.
Young returns to Villa for the first time on Saturday as Sir Alex Ferguson's men look to bounce back from a surprise Carling Cup exit at the hands of Crystal Palace in midweek.
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McLeish said: "Ashley is a great player. Reading his story was fascinating about how he was discarded as a youngster and had the determination to make himself a top pro.
"It's a brilliant story that any youngster should read. He's been a real success story. He's a dangerous player and going to United has not affected him.
"He's not fazed by it and he's almost taken up the gauntlet in showing the other United players how good he is."
McLeish added: "Ashley staying here was never going to happen. I knew that from day one after I came here.
"The club tried very hard but it's difficult when one of the top clubs in the world comes in.
"If there was any chance, I would have tried because you don't want to lose the top players."
Villa will be looking for their first home league win over United in 16 years and McLeish has challenged his players to have the belief to end that run.
He said: "Someday a Villa team will beat United at home. I've got to believe it will be us and the players have to believe that too.
"United are not unbeatable, we've seen that. They are formidable and we have to be at it, firing at 100 per cent.
"We have to have concentration levels like never before to beat them."