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Vital respite for Houllier

It would be fair to say that Gerard Houllier got a shock when he returned to management after six years' absence with Aston Villa, WRITES SANDY MaCASKILL.

Not only how much the players and games have moved on, but how little time it takes for supporters to lose faith in their manager, and for an owner to press the panic button. No wonder, then, that the former Liverpool manager had a word of warning for Kenny Dalglish.

Dalglish, who has taken over at Liverpool a decade after he left his last managerial position, at Celtic, has been warned by Houllier that he will have little time to assert himself and that even to lose one game plunges the club into crisis mode.

"I think that Kenny will see a change," Houllier said. "There is no time for patience now. If you lose a game there is a crisis."

That might be the case with Liverpool but not all clubs and owners have lost the virtue of patience. Indeed, the Frenchman has taken a team which, minus James Milner, finished in the top six for four years running, into the relegation zone, and yet his owner Randy Lerner continues to give his support.

This FA Cup tie against Sheffield United was a step in the right direction though, especially as Houllier's decision to bring in Kyle Walker on loan from Tottenham was blessed within 10 minutes.

The right-back, a ball boy when United beat Villa in the FA Cup six years ago, dribbled his way into the area, and found the corner. Marc Albrighton doubled the lead with a volley from six yards shortly after the half-hour mark.

Villa conceded their fourth penalty in four games when Carlos Cuellar tripped Lee Williamson in the area and Michael Jones pointed to the spot. Jamie Ward slotted home, as Villa again looked to assist their opponents, Ashley Young getting sent off for two bookings, the second match in a row Villa have ended with 10 men.

Stiliyan Petrov finished the match off in stoppage-time, easing the pressure on his manager in the process. Who said no one in football has patience nowadays? (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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