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Page last updated at 06:47 GMT, Saturday, 27 February 2010

BBC pundits on O'Neill v Ferguson

Carling Cup final: Aston Villa v Manchester United
Venue: Wembley Stadium Date: Sunday, 28 February Kick-off: 1500 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC HD, BBC Sport website, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC local radio & Sky Sports 1 from 1400 GMT

Martin O'Neill (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United take on Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

O'Neill, who won the trophy twice with Leicester City, is chasing his first silverware with the club he joined in 2006, while Ferguson is looking to secure his fourth triumph in the competition.

BBC Sport asked Match of the Day pundits Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, who won seven League Cups between them with Liverpool, their thoughts on the rival managers.

Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
Match of the Day pundit and winner of four League Cups

Martin O'Neill's managerial career has been an almost unbroken story of excellence - from his early days at Wycombe Wanderers through to Leicester City, Celtic and now Aston Villa.

The only blip has been his short stay at Norwich City, and how all at Carrow Road must wonder what might have been had he not become disenchanted after only a few months in the job.

How you actually gauge managerial success is hard these days, but one very accurate measure is silverware, and for O'Neill the final represents the opportunity to get tangible reward for the work he has put in place since he arrived at Villa Park in August 2006.

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O'Neill has probably made fourth place in the Premier League - and the resulting place in next season's Champions League - the main priority, but Villa would be elated to beat United at a packed Wembley.

I am a huge admirer of O'Neill's management. He has a tremendous eye for a player - he will see something in players other managers might discard, and then he takes these players and makes them even better.

He might not like me saying it but I see a lot of his old mentor, the great Brian Clough, in how he goes about his business. Villa play with a rigid back four and a rigid midfield, but with an outlet. In the days when my old Liverpool team used to have some great collisions with Forest, their outlet was John Robertson while Villa have Ashley Young.

Confident O'Neill expects open Cup final

Martin has superb man-management skills and an ability to mould players into a team who will fight for each other. And another great asset that will appeal to Villa owner Randy Lerner is that he does not need £100 zillion to do it.

It will be a tight game and Villa will try to use the pace and power they have in abundance to hit United on the break. They also pose a huge danger at set-pieces, with the likes of Richard Dunne and Carlos Cuellar going forward in the hope of getting on the end of an excellent delivery from people like Young, James Milner or Stewart Downing.

While I am not going to be foolish enough to back Villa against United, I do think they have a great chance. And a major trophy against United at Wembley will see O'Neill stamp his mark even more indelibly on the club.

Mark Lawrenson
By Mark Lawrenson
Match of the Day pundit and winner of three League Cups

I don't know if there is a better manager than Sir Alex Ferguson right now. He's adapted and matured, he understands modern-day football and he understands modern footballers, which is impressive when you're dealing with multi-millionaires.

Where he is fortunate is that everybody wants to play for Manchester United. Everybody understands what it takes to play for them - apart from ability there are all sorts of positive characteristics you need.

So he has always got competition for places, and when he does leave players out for whatever reason, they have to fight their way back into the team. But he has bought and sold extremely well and he also brings players through the system.


The one thing you can always be certain about Ferguson's teams is they will attack. If it is not going for him he will look to the bench and bring three strikers on, that is just the way he is.

He will tell you this is the way United supporters demand the team play, and for that reason they will go for Villa on Sunday.

While it is a big game for everyone else, for Ferguson's lads it is pretty run of the mill because finals are the norm for them. They will treat it just like another game and when you go into a final with that attitude it really does give you an advantage.

It would be a big decision to leave Wayne Rooney out, and he will definitely select a healthy smattering of the experienced players along with younger players. But even his younger players, like Fabio and Jonny Evans, have experience.

Ferguson praises League Cup rival

You might argue this squad is not as strong as last years', but United have never gone away. Everyone said they would miss Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, but Rooney has been brilliant and maybe they haven't missed them as much as expected.

Ferguson is very good at deciding when to let people go - he has got very few of those decisions wrong. It is unbelievable that he is probably on his fifth team now: sometimes you put a team together and it is very successful, but it is then very difficult to craft another one.

He is a very driven individual and he will only leave Manchester United in a box. Whatever happens he will leave an almost impossible legacy for someone to take over.

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see also
Cup win unbelievable, says Rooney
01 Mar 10 |  League Cup
Aston Villa 1-2 Man Utd
28 Feb 10 |  League Cup
Graham Taylor's tactical analysis
26 Feb 10 |  League Cup
When Boardman gave Villa the last laugh
26 Feb 10 |  League Cup
League Cup final memories
26 Feb 10 |  Football
Aston Villa 1-1 Man Utd
10 Feb 10 |  Premier League
Man Utd 0-1 Aston Villa
12 Dec 09 |  Premier League

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