Former Villa and Manchester United favourite Dwight Yorke has challenged Martin O’Neill’s men to “have a really good go” at the champions when they travel to Old Trafford today.
Villa have failed to win at the Theatre of Dreams for more than a quarter of a century, including when Yorke was in his pomp in claret and blue before joining United in the late 1990s.
But the retired Trinidad and Tobago striker will be a guest at the game at teatime after signing copies of his autobiography, Born to Score, at the United megastore this afternoon.
And Yorke reckons that if in-form Villa adopt a positive approach they have as good a chance as ever to banish to the past their poor form against Sir Alex Ferguson’s superstars.
“I’m going to go and watch the game and take it all in and see my two clubs battle away,” said Yorke.
“Villa are a good team, but their record at Old Trafford hasn’t been particularly good, even in my time there.
“It’s a difficult task, they have nothing to lose and they should really have a go at it. But it’s a tough task at Old Trafford.
“From being there and playing there myself I know it is a daunting place.
“But it’s not impossible. If ever there was a time for Villa to go there and have a go at them it is now.
“But if you find a buoyant Man United team it’s really difficult because they’re just a different prospect at home.
“It has been proved that they can get beaten at home though and there’s no reason why you can’t see Villa going there and trying to turn them over.”
Yorke has been impressed with the way O’Neill has recovered from the injury-enforced retirement of Martin Laursen to assemble another solid defence.
The claret-and-blue backline has the Premier League’s third-best defensive record so far behind United and Chelsea, having conceded just 14 goals.
And Yorke believes Richard Dunne has enhanced the spine of the team which also includes goalkeeper Brad Friedel, midfielder Stiliyan Petrov and striker Gabby Agbonlahor.
“The defence is impressing me,” said Yorke.
“They are more solid at the back this time round. I know they lost Laursen, who has just retired and he was a big loss to them last year.
“Scoring goals is also really important and Agbonlahor seems to have found his feet now.
“Ashley Young is a good player there and James Milner is coming into his own at the moment.
“So I think they’ve got a nice little balance going at the moment from back to front and I think that’s important when you are trying to build a team.
“Like Fergie used to say, you need the core of the team straight down the middle with a good striker a good midfielder a solid defender and a good goalkeeper. At the moment they have a good steady base at Aston Villa.”
Yorke still has a soft spot for Villa despite leaving to win the treble in his first season with United in 1999 and later joining fierce Second City rivals Birmingham.
But the 38-year-old admits that his beloved first club has changed massively since he left more than a decade ago, with just a handful of familiar faces from his time there.
“I played with Gordon Cowans and I know he’s still in the background with the academy,” added Yorke.
“And Kevin MacDonald, he was there when I was there. I have a lot of time for Kevin.
“But things have changed. The tea-lady has changed and even Doug’s gone now too!
“When I go back to watch a game – I went back once last year – it’s great. People remember me and I feel warmth there.
“It’s a good feeling and that just goes to show what I achieved there.”