Winning the Carling Cup can be the start of a bright and successful new era for Aston Villa, says Manager Martin O'Neill as he looks ahead to Sunday's Final against Manchester United at Wembley.

It will be Villa's eighth final in the competition but, despite their past honours in League, domestic Cups and in Europe, they have not lifted a single major trophy since their 1996 League Cup Final triumph against Leeds United.

O'Neill, himself something of a League Cup specialist - this will be his seventh final as player then Manager - said: "I think that for the well-being of the club in the immediate future it would be really great if we could do it.

"The club has been starved of success and considering it has a great history, contesting these type of games in February, March and April would be a sign that the club is making serious progress. It's so important - it gives you a boost of confidence, a platform to drive on and a determination to go and succeed. The players, if they can win it, would feel that and I'm hoping this is the start of something for this team because I think they genuinely deserve it.

"Getting to the final is really important for us because the club has had a pretty poor time of it really. 1994, 1996 and 2000 - three finals, two League Cups (won) and defeat by Chelsea (in the FA Cup) since winning the European Cup in 1982; and one FA Cup Final since 1957.

"When I say the club has a great, great history, well certainly since 1982 you wouldn't say that's a phenomenal record and it's up to us to try and change that."

If Villa beat the holders on Sunday O'Neill will have chalked up League Cup Final victories with three different clubs, having collected two winners medals with Nottingham Forest as a player and twice managed triumphant Leicester City teams.

Hoping to celebrate his 58th birthday on Monday with another success to his name, the former Wycombe Wanderers and Celtic boss said: "The League Cup has been really kind to me. It will be seventh time around and I remember all the matches very clearly, both as a player and a Manager - particularly the second half against Southampton in 1979 (Forest won 3-2) and the big disappointment of losing to Wolves (1-0, 1980), when we were expected to win and should have won."

O'Neill's team will this time around be expected by most pundits to lose the final against a United side looking to lift the trophy for the third time in five seasons.

But back in 1994 United were likewise hot favourites and were beaten 3-1 by Villa. And, underdogs or not, O'Neill is interested only in overseeing a repeat success.

He said: "If it turns out to be a fantastic game, which I hope it does, it will be of very little consequence to us in three weeks time if we've been beaten. So although it will be a great occasion for our fans, as far as myself and the players are concerned the only focus is on trying to win the game - and that's what we'll be doing."

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