Lambert deserves credit - Moyes
Manchester United manager David Moyes believes Paul Lambert is now being rewarded for his bold gamble in blooding so many youngsters in his first season as Aston Villa boss.
Asked to slash the Villa Park wage bill by owner Randy Lerner, it looked for a long period last term as though Lambert would take them sliding into the Championship.
A desperate Christmas saw them concede 15 goals and score none in three games, and the following month they were knocked out of the Capital One Cup semi-finals by League Two Bradford.
Yet, somehow, Lambert managed to stabilise the situation. Losing just five of their last 14 games last term, Villa secured their top-flight status with a game to spare.
This campaign the improvement has continued.
And, while Christian Benteke has not hit the form of 12 months ago, Villa host United on Sunday just two places and three points behind the ailing Barclays Premier League champions.
For that, Moyes feels Lambert deserves plenty of credit.
"Paul Lambert introduced a lot of young players in his first year or so," the Scot said. "That was always going to be a hard task for him.
"At times young players can make mistakes or not be as consistent as you would like.
"Paul has got through the worst of that. It was a brave decision to do it and he has some exciting players now."
Moyes and Lambert share a bond through both spending time at Celtic during their playing days.
Yet any personal friendship has to be cast aside as United seek to avoid suffering a third successive Premier League defeat following losses to Everton and Newcastle.
The positive comes from the knowledge Villa Park has been one of the Red Devils' most productive venues of the Premier League era.
They have won 11 and drawn six of their 17 encounters at the stadium since the infamous 'you'll never win anything with kids' visit in 1995, when United were beaten 3-1.
The intervening period also includes some famous cup triumphs, both against Villa and in FA Cup semi-finals, including one of the most famous of all.
"I have been told Villa has been a great venue for United," Moyes said.
"My memory goes back to Ryan Giggs' goal against Arsenal. That was one of my great memories of Villa Park.
"I have always enjoyed going there.
"We will go there and try and pick up the league form."
Rather than address talk of whether United still have a chance of retaining their title, or even if they can finish in the top four, Moyes is taking a blinkered view of the next few weeks.
He knows results must be pieced together, and confidence gained from the unbeaten run United were on before their world started to collapse.
"We see this game as an opportunity," Moyes said. "There is a long way to go in league, but we can only take one game at a time.
"Football is like that. Let's see what happens and maybe then we can talk about it later in the season.
"At moment we can't because we are too far away. We want to get closer and we will do everything we possibly can to do that."
Moyes must plot the path without influence of Golden Boot winner Robin van Persie, who will be out for four weeks with a thigh strain, and Michael Carrick, who is still a fortnight away from recovering from an Achilles problem that has already ruled him out for a month.