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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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McLeish: Few could do better

Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish has defiantly claimed that few other managers could do a better job than him at Villa Park, and he has heaped the pressure firmly on the shoulders of Gabriel Agbonlahor to ensure the club avoids relegation this season.

Villa are in the midst of a tortuous campaign, currently sitting 15th in the Premier League - eight points above the bottom three. A 0-0 draw with bottom club Wigan last time out hardly helped the cause, making it two wins from their last 11 in the league.

McLeish was always facing an uphill task when he took the reins at Villa, having previously managed local rivals Birmingham. However, he is convinced the current criticism coming from the fans is both unhelpful and unnecessary.

"This is probably my biggest test in football and I include Rangers in that, when you're expected to win every week," McLeish said in the Daily Mirror. "I've not got a magic wand and I don't think there are a lot of managers who could do a lot better than the job I am doing just now.

"I'd be lying if I said it [the criticism] didn't bother me and it was easy to handle and there was no pressure whatever. That would be total fabrication but I believe I'm strong enough and I've got the experience to handle it.

"It would be a major disappointment if the fans were to affect the players. We are in the business of results and we need to get them."

Key to that mission, in McLeish's eyes, is Agbonlahor. The England man began the season on fire but has not scored a league goal since November, and in the absence of Darren Bent and Robbie Keane, McLeish wants his striker to step up.

"There is again a big responsibility on Gabby. He is now one of the senior players here in terms of Aston Villa history," McLeish said. "He is man and boy Villa. I think this season Gabby has risen to the expectation levels and I believe he can take it to another level.

"Losing Darren, Keane and Richard Dunne is just something you can't legislate for. That's a huge blow to any team, losing three players of that experience, but I believe we've got the players who can see us okay for this season and we've got to build next season.

"I've always said this season would be a tough challenge and that's the way it has panned out. Now we have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get the Gabby Agbonlahors and Stephen Irelands of this world really coming to the fore."

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