Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill admitted he expected the hostile reception he received from Aston Villa fans on his first return after quitting the midlands club 20 months ago.

O'Neill apologised for the timing of his departure five days before the start of the 2010-11 campaign after his side fought out a goalless draw with Villa on Saturday afternoon. But he is adamant he left Villa in a stronger position than when he took over in 2006.

When asked about the fans' reaction, O'Neill said: "I think it's a very natural reaction considering I've been gone two years and they've never known my reasons for leaving. It is very natural, I was expecting it and I got it."

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