O’Neill: Villa stars staying grounded

Villa won at Old Trafford for the first time in 26 years on

Saturday thanks to Gabriel Agbonlahor’s first-half goal and climbed

into third spot in the Premier League for 24 hours before being

overtaken by Arsenal. It completed a memorable treble following

wins at Anfield and at home to Chelsea this season, but O’Neill

thinks his squad have their feet firmly on the ground ahead of

Tuesday’s meeting with Sunderland at the Stadium Of Light. O’Neill

said: “I think it’s important to take everything in context. It was

a fine win against United and I’m delighted we won and, by winning

the game at Old Trafford, I am sure it will give players a bit more

confidence. “But I’m sure they are also totally aware the

Sunderland game will be just as difficult. Just because we won at

Old Trafford doesn’t mean we can win anywhere. “Anyone can win

somewhere, sometime given a set of circumstances. “I don’t want to

play it down. It was a great win for us, the first time at United

for 26 years, but I don’t think the players will get too carried

away with it. I think you saw that.” Villa hit a sticky patch after

defeating Chelsea, drawing with Wolves and Everton and losing at

West Ham, and will be keen to make sure they capitalise on the win

over Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. O’Neill said: “The Premier League

for us is so difficult. I can’t prevent the way people will

speculate on things. You look at certain results and draw some

conclusions which I know are a million miles from the real aspect

of it all. “These players won against Chelsea and then had to play

a local derby against Wolves, which was always going to be hard for

us. “We didn’t play well against Wolves but I don’t think because

we beat Chelsea we automatically thought the next game would be

straightforward, and I don’t think the top teams think like that.

“That is why they have a consistency of results and that is what we

are striving to achieve.” O’Neill knows that expectations are

increasing because of Villa’s second successive push to secure a

top-four spot but knows the picture can quickly alter. He said: “To

beat Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United is really fine and

pretty exceptional but, as a consequence, you raise expectations

around the place. “I’ve said before I am not too concerned about

that. The converse is absolutely true. You lose a couple of games

and people think you’re sliding down the table again. Things have

to be in perspective.” O’Neill is aware Sunderland will provide a

tough test at the Stadium of Light and Villa needed penalties to

win the Carling Cup tie between the clubs at the same venue last

month. He said: “We won on penalties in the Carling Cup and last

season we did very well to win the league game. We came from behind

to win. “But it will be difficult, no question about that and

Sunderland are strong. “They’ve had one or two hiccups away from

home but overall they are very, very strong at home and obviously

I’m pretty concerned about the game. There is just no respite.

“Confidence is pretty good and I think naturally if you go to

places like Old Trafford and Anfield and win, certainly that can

only be a major confidence boost. “But again that can be eroded

pretty quickly.”