Having terminated his contract with the French Football Federation, with whom he was technical director, only this week, Houllier was unable to take control sooner.
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The Frenchman has naturally already started doing his homework.
MacDonald, the caretaker manager who will be in the technical area for his fifth, and presumably final, Premier League fixture as Villa manager, revealed that he had been in daily contact with the man who he respectfully calls "Mr Houllier".
He confirmed that they had been discussing players and possible tactics, though MacDonald will have the final say on Saturday.
"We keep in constant contact," he explained. "We have discussed the game and players. [Houllier] has been trying to get some knowledge from me before he comes in. He had told me to pick the team, set the team up for Saturday."
MacDonald will now return quietly to the reserves, to continue with what most consider to be his true calling, turning promising young players into potential first-teamers.
How long he stays is another matter; on Monday he said that "someone might think I would make a good manager", an opaque remark which to some sounded rather like an advertisement of his services.
It was perhaps with that in mind that, with the nostalgia of a man who has experienced six matches in charge of one of the biggest football clubs in the country, he ended with a salute to the players, perhaps a reminder to Houllier of just what he is inheriting, and a prediction of good times to come.
He said: "Mr Houllier knows he has some good players to work with. He is excited and there is a lot to be excited about there is a young vibrant squad allied to some very good senior professionals.
"If he can manage that and bring them forward then this club is going to go places."