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Treble-chasing Yorke glad to be red.

In some ways Dwight Yorke is not surprised by how Aston Villa's championship challenge has fizzled out.

At the turn of the year, John Gregory's side were top of the Premiership, but any hopes of lifting their first title since 1981 disappeared on the back of a run of ten league games without a win.

For Yorke, it was an all-too-familiar sight and he remembers from his days at Villa Park how the club always seemed to stumble when silverware was in sight.

Sure, Villa have won a couple of League Cups in the 1990s, but Yorke feels the Villa trophy cabinet should have been much fuller. That was the main reason why he turned his back on the club and the opportunity to become the best-paid player in Villa Park history to join Manchester United last August.

The pounds 12.6 million striker knew his dreams of glory would come true at Old Trafford. He is seven games away from winning an unprecedented treble of European Champions' Cup, Premiership and FA Cup with United, while last weekend, he was runner-up in the Professional Footballers Association Player of the Year award.

"Villa have been a bit indifferent in recent months, but that's always been the Villa way," he said.

"From the time I was there, things have gone really, really well and then, when you think you should go on and win something, they falter.

"It's such a shame, because they are a big club and they deserve a lot of success. But for some reason, they never see it through to the death and that's the big difference between them and United.

"At United, we're in two finals and that's great, but we still haven't won anything.

"We know we've just got to try and take it one step at a time. We're focused on the league and we know if we win our last five games, we will win the league."

Yorke faces his former team-mates once again at Old Trafford today and claims this match should be easier to handle than his return to the West Midlands in December, a game which finished as a 1-1 draw.

The Trinidad and Tobago international spent nearly nine years at Villa and admits he found it hard going back.

"It was all a bit emotional and it got the better of me," he said. "But that's behind me now and I'm very much a United person and I'm looking forward to the game.

"Villa are coming to Old Trafford and it's a big game and a big occasion for them. They will be up for it, so we will have to be at our best."

Although Yorke insists he is now United through and through, he still has ties with Villa, chiefly in the shape of his old friend, Ugo Ehiogu. Yorke could well face Ehiogu today, after the centre-half came through a midweek reserve match following nearly three months out with a fractured eye socket.

Gareth Southgate was still struggling with an ankle injury last night and that could pave the way for Ehiogu's comeback.

"I was with him over the weekend and I think he's one of those kind of people who likes the big occasion and will be up for the challenge," Yorke said.

"We all know Ugo is a quality player and he has been a big loss when he has not been playing.

"Hopefully, though, the fact he has been out for so long may just let us in a little bit."

While Yorke's new team contemplates the treble, Villa are still clinging to the faint hope of a UEFA Cup place, even if their only chance is via the Inter-Toto Cup - the tradesman's entrance.

With that in mind, manager John Gregory has been so meticulous in his planning for this game that want-away goalkeeper Mark Bosnich will not be part of it.

The 27-year-old Australian international will walk out of Villa Park at the end of the season and Gregory would rather use his deputy, Michael Oakes, than a player whose heart is no longer in the club - and whose persistent links with a transfer to Old Trafford could unsettle the Villa side.

Bosnich, who was doubtful with a bruised foot anyway, was not even invited to travel with the squad yesterday and his claret-and-blue career is effectively over.

"I will only pick players who are totally committed to Aston Villa," Gregory said.

"I am happy to turn to Michael Oakes. He kept a clean sheet for us against Nottingham Forest last weekend.

"A decision had to be made on the question of Mark Bosnich and I had to do what was in the best interests of the club."

Bosnich has steadfastly refused to even consider signing a new contract and while a move to Old Trafford may yet be on, he has been touting his services all over Europe and his more likely destination could be Italy.

With or without Bosnich, first-team coach Steve Harrison is under no illusions about the magnitude of Villa's challenge against arguably the finest United team of all time.

"They're a smashing side, probably the best in Europe and we can only admire what Alex Ferguson has achieved there," he said.

"But we played well against them at Villa Park and we expect to do the same at Old Trafford. We're confident."
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Title Annotation:National
Author:Ward, Michael
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 1, 1999
Words:894
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