With thanks to Carling Net Nr 1 in Football.

Aston Villa v Man United 21/09/96 3.00

Aston Villa             (0) 0 Man United              (0) 0 FT

Manchester United are a team on a short fuse and as their frustration mounts, the fear is that it will all blow up in their faces against Rapid Vienna this week.

Twice the woodwork denied Alex Ferguson's men the victory to boost their confidence going into a Champions' League game they must win to restore English credibility.

But they could just as easily have lost to an Aston Villa side deploying to great effect the 3-5-2 system the Austrians will rely on at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

And the champions' tension produced some explosive moments which could have easily earned new England star David Beckham the first red card of his meteoric career and come-back midfielder Roy Keane greater problems than just yellow on a ground where the Irishman seems fated to run into trouble.

It was a snappy, ratty display and this time United could not blame their shirts.

A dazzling new white away strip £10 off as a sop to disgruntled parents of their young fans replaced the grey disaster they wore during last season's opening day 3-1 defeat here and which was unceremoniously dumped in April.

But they played like invisible men for much of the time, as they stumbled to their fourth Premiership draw of the new season and lost precious ground on red-hot leaders Liverpool.

For Villa it was hardly any more encouraging as they prepare for the Swedish challenge of repairing the damage of a 1-1 home UEFA Cup draw against Helsingborgs on Tuesday.

Ferguson welcomed back Keane for only his second start and he soon got stuck into midfield in the absence of Nicky Butt.

United, who gave a debut to new £200,000 Dutch goalkeeper Raimond van der Gouw because Peter Schmeichel had a virus, also stuck with new Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in attack rather than midweek reserve hat-trick star Andy Cole.

But their 4-4-2 formation was largely negated in a first-half battle of tactics, with Solskjaer missing a seventh-minute shot wide and Jordi Cruyff much closer with a header from Gary Neville's right-wing cross.

Villa were hardly any more threatening but Sasa Curcic drilled wide of each post after good work by the otherwise out-of-form and goal-less this season Dwight Yorke.

The deadlock exploded in the 38th minute when Beckham reacted angrily to Steve Staunton's reckless challenge late from behind, swinging round and throwing a punch before his new England team-mate Gareth Southgate stepped in and pulled him away.

He was lucky Barnsley referee Steve Lodge ruled the yellow card sufficient.

Cole replaced Solskjaer for the second half but it was Villa who were supercharged, pouring forward though without creating a better chance then Savo Milosevic's shot on the run just wide and another header from the Serb which the Dutchman pounced on at the base of his post.

Ryan Giggs should have settled it in the 61st minute when he cut through on the left but Villa's own standing goalkeeper Michael Oakes spread himself and got the merest touch to deflect his shot against the outside of the post.

It was agony again for United in the 71st minute when Cole showed a long-awaited glimpse of his old finishing instinct with a superb leaping header on to Giggs' swinging cross which clapped back into play off the crossbar.

And Fergie's heart must have been in his mouth when Yorke found the United net eight minutes later only for the effort to be ruled out by an offside flag that completed an unsatisfactory day all round.

Aston Villa: Oakes, Curcic (Taylor, 85), Staunton, Southgate, Wright, Ehiogu, Townsend, Nelson, Draper, Yorke, Milosevic.

Subs not used: McGrath, Johnson, Joachim, Rachel.

Booked: Curcic.

Man United: Van Der Gouw, Neville, Irwin, Cruyff (Poborsky, 77), Keane, Pallister, Cantona, Johnsen, Solskjaer (Cole, 45), Beckham, Giggs.

Subs not used: McClair, Scholes, Appleton.

Booked: Keane, Beckham.

Attendance: 39,339.

Referee: S J Lodge (Barnsley).

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