Aston Villa 0 Man United 3
“We are staying up,” chanted their boisterous following during the three minute period where Danny Welbeck scored two first half goals.
Winning the league has been the target for Manchester United every season throughout their Barclays Premier League history but you sense supporters of the current champions would be content with a top four slot this time around judging by their self-deprecating ditty after the first goal in this resounding win at Aston Villa.
Tom Cleverley added a third after half-time to give United the look of champions they have seldom shown this term, ending a league run of four games without wins where they lost their last two encounters.
This convincing win was relief all round for everyone at Manchester United, none more so than David Moyes who has struggled to fill the void left by Alex Ferguson in the summer.
“We’re getting closer to it but it has to be more consistent and I’m still looking to improve again,” he said.
“The all-round performance was more like it and I’m pleased with that. We played well.”
Aston Villa were poor, exceptionally so, as their hoodoo against the Red Devils, a side they have not won at home since 1995, continued.
Paul Lambert’s side had started brightly though with Karim El Ahmadi and Marc Albrighton, who made a fine start, both firing at David De Gea.
But United’s speed and flair down the right hand side helped them put this game to bed as early as the 18th-minute.
Antonio Luna had a woeful game, with United capitalising on his hesitancy in both the opening goals.
First Rafael’s 15th-minute cross was headed against the post by Adnan Januzaj and Welbeck reacted quickest to slot the rebound home.
Antonio Valencia’s pace set up the second, as he crossed for Welbeck to power home. United could have been 4-0 up at half-time as they continued to carve open Villa’s lack-lustre defence, Wayne Rooney missing the target from Valencia’s pass and Welbeck missing the chance for a hat-trick after being played in by Valencia.
Moyes’ side need not have worried though as they continued where they left off in the second half and a third goal arrived on 52 minutes, Cleverley scoring his first of the campaign from Rooney’s pass.
The rest of the game was a mere procession as Villa went four games without a goal and significantly leading scorer Christian Benteke failed again to find the net for a 10th consecutive outing, with his confidence at its lowest ebb since he arrived in English football at the start of last season.
There was another positive for Moyes when Darren Fletcher, out of action for nearly 12 months following a chronic bowel problem, was handed 20 minutes at the end.
Moyes was not happy with the tackles that went in on Belgian Januzaj and called for referees to protect him.
“I think he’s been kicked in every game,” he said. “I don’t know how many tackles he’s had in the last two or three games. I’m annoyed with the fourth official and referee. Before you know it the boy will get a sore one as he is definitely not getting protected by the officials.
“It’s terrible what they are allowing to go on at the moment. This boy is an incredible talent. It’s not necessarily the same player, I think they are queuing up to see who will kick him next.
“There were that many tackles from different players. It’s something the referees will have to think about as they are queuing up to kick him. Last week was exactly the same.
“It’s up to the referees, that’s their job, they are paid to referee the games and are professional. You would hope they would recognise that.
“He will just get up and walk away and get on. That’s one of his biggest attributes along with his outstanding ability. He will say: ‘come on kick me, and I’ll get up again’.”
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert disagreed with Moyes’ accusation.
“We’re not a physical side, we are a young side who are over-exuberant,” he said. “I never set out anyone to try and kick anyone.
“It was not an over aggressive game, there were challenges that people were entitled to go for.”
Villa have won just twice at home all season and Lambert knows that record is not good enough if his side are to avoid a relegation battle like last term.
“I thought we started really well — that’s as well as we’ve started for a number of weeks. Everything looked decent.
“But it was disappointing with the goals we conceded. And the first we should have stopped the cross. But they are clinical.
“We have to get more wins at home, there’s no point feeling sorry for yourself.”
ASTON VILLA (4-5-1): Guzan 6; Lowton 5, Baker 5, Clark 5, Luna 4; Albrighton 7, Westwood 6, El Ahmadi 6 (Bacuna 86), Sylla 5 (Weimann 62; 5), Agbonlahor 6; Benteke 5 (Kozak 79; 5).
Subs not used: Steer, Bowery, Gardner, Tonev. Bookings: Agbonlahor, Lowton, Clark, Baker.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-1-1): De Gea 7; Rafael 7, Jones 7, Evans 7, Evra 7; Valencia 8, Giggs 6 (Fletcher 70; 7), Cleverley 7, Januzaj 7 (Young 70; 6); Rooney 8 (Zaha 84); Welbeck 8.
Subs not used: Lindegaard , Ferdinand, Fabio, Buttner. Bookings: De Gea, Welbeck.
Referee: Lee Mason.
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