O'Neill hails wing threat
Martin O'Neill has no plans to abandon his attacking mindset as Aston Villa prepare to take on Man Utd
By Danny Wright
Last Updated: 11/12/09 10:21am
Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is happy for his wide players to continue causing damage as he prepares his side to take on Manchester United.
Villa travel to Old Trafford having lost just one of their last six matches and are riding high in the Premier League, their fine run of form elevating them to fifth in the table.
O'Neill has plenty of attacking options at his disposal and is happy for the team's creative talents to play freely against the defending champions.
The likes of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, James Milner and Gabriel Agbonlahor provide pace and power in abundance, giving the 57-year-old plenty to ponder.
With Sir Alex Ferguson's side struggling with injuries, the Midlands club couldn't visit United at a better time, although O'Neill has warned his side not to abandon their defensive duties.
And he admitted he is willing to stick with a three-pronged attack, and let his players do the thinking for themselves on the pitch.
"Ashley and Stewart are given carte blanche to move from one wing to the other as they see fit," O'Neill told the Daily Star.
"I'm happy enough with that, just as long as we don't lose the basic shape of the team.
"If they were doing it every two-and-a-half minutes, then I would have something to say about it because it would upset the balance, but overall, it's something I'm more than happy with."
O'Neill has established the Villa Park club as a formidable force in the Premier League since his arrival in 2006 and has assembled a side capable of challenging for the coveted Champions League places.
One of his most potent players is former Newcastle United man James Milner, who has found himself thrust into a new central midfield role having started out as a wide player.
The 23-year-old ran riot in the middle of the park in the 3-0 win over Hull, scoring a superb goal to put his side in control.
His recent displays in the new-found role have impressed O'Neill, and the Villa boss said his midfielder's quality on the ball provides the most danger to other sides.
O'Neill added: "For a little while this may give us something of a surprise element, but the main thing is that the likes of Ashley, Stewart and James are comfortable with the ball under pressure and that is the biggest asset.
"James is looking pretty much at home there and that's because he's basically just a very good footballer.
"Ashley has shown he's capable of playing alongside a centre-forward or just off and he can also join in midfield.
"There's a bit of flexibility there and, with Stewart in the side, a bit more competition for players."