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Aston Villa v Manchester United half-time update

Aston Villa were forced to name a very youthful side with the absence of so many experienced players, and Jonathan Hogg was included for his Premier League debut.

Gerard Houllier was able to name his first choice back four, which is key against a strong Manchester United team that included attacking flair such as Nani, Berbatov and Hernandez.

The first 20 minutes was a game of few chances, but Villa's midfielder duo of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing troubled the Manchester United defence with some dangerous crosses.

United had the majority of the possession for the opening periods, but Villa started to come more into the game the longer the half went on. Though neither sides really created any chances or forced either goalkeeper into a tricky save for the opening 30 minutes.

A lot of the game has been played in midfield, with a fair number of crunching challenges going in. Young Villa midfielder Barry Bannan was the first to go into the referee's book when he received a yellow card for unsporting behaviour. There were a lot of free kicks given away by both sides as referee Mike Dean showed a stern hand when it came to challenges. This animosity between the sides continued to bubble under for the majority of the half as players clashed on numerous occasions.

United missed a great chance on 32 minutes when a clever free-kick routine by Nani and Patrice Evra opened up the Villa defence. The French defender put a prime ball across the six-yard area and any United attacker chasing the ball in would have had a simple tap-in for the first goal. Towards the close of the half Michael Carrick flashed a shot across the goal from the edge of the area, as United really failed to make Brad Friedel work in the Villa goal.

While there have been no goals in the first half there has been enough to suggest the game is bubbling under the surface and is liable to burst into life any time. Downing almost got a goal in the dying minutes of the first half and he has looked the main danger for Villa. The trio of Downing, Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor all look capable of troubling a static United defence as Villa grew into the game the later the half went on.

Gerard Houllier will certainly be the happier of the two managers, while Sir Alex Ferguson could give the hairdryer treatment to his players at half-time.

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