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GIFT OF GAB; Agbonlahor pounces to end Villa's 26-year Old Trafford hoodoo.

Byline: JOHN MATHIESON

MANCHESTER UTD ............0 ASTON VILLA ....................1

JOHN MATHIESON reports

MARTIN O'NEILL'S archangel Gabriel had Villa floating on air after his heavenly goal handed them their first Old Trafford win since 1983.

But Agbonlahor's header was hell for United who would have gone level with pace-setters Chelsea had they been the ones celebrating victory.

It took O'Neill's side just 21 minutes to go in front when Agbonlahor got himself between defenders and headed Ashley Young's cross beyond Tomasz Kuszczak.

And it was a lead they would not surrender despite Sir Alex Ferguson's side coming close with one Wayne Rooney effort even smashing off the bar.

Fergie was given cause to cheer before kick-off with the news defenders Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic were back.

But the United boss would soon be cursing Brown when his weak square ball to Vidic was so nearly intercepted by Emile Heskey.

The hosts had averted disaster but there would be no sighs of relief 15 minutes later.

Agbonlahor showed impressive strength to hold the ball up then lay off a pass to Ashley Young with Brown at his back.

Young swiftly knocked the ball into the space Agbonlahor had gone to fill. And as Kuszczak came off his line, then stopped without making a challenge, Agbonlahor nodded into an empty net.

United tried to hit back immediately. Michael Carrick forced a save out of Brad Friedel then Rooney outpaced Carlos Cuellar, only to let himself down by diving for a penalty.

It was an act that cost him a booking his manager could have no complaints over.

Crashed At the other end Kuszczak was flapping but in a rare moment of inspiration he made an excellent feet-first save to deny Agbonlahor after stand-in right-back Darren Fletcher had given the ball away.

Then the home side tested Villa when Rooney crashed a shot off the bar from Patrice Evra's cross.

Fergie threw on midweek hat-trick hero Michael Owen at the break in place of Ryan Giggs.

But despite the striker bringing an extra edge to United's attack they couldn't find the net.

And it left Villa swaggering off the Old Trafford pitch celebrating having got not so much a monkey off their backs but a gorilla.

CAPTION(S):

Three prize men: Milner and Petrov hail Agbonlahor for his winner that means so much to Villa Bar fly: Rooney rues crashing shot off woodwork
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 13, 2009
Words:400
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