Man Utd 3 Aston Villa 1
Manchester United maintained their six-point lead at the Premiership summit in impressive style.
Ji-Sung Park‘s low drive opened the scoring early on and Michael Carrick’s first goal for United doubled the advantage two minutes later.
Carrick turned creator to cross for Cristiano Ronaldo to head home at the far post 10 minutes before half-time.
Gabriel Agbonlahor pulled a goal back for Villa from close range after 51 minutes, but United were a class apart.
Henrik Larsson was handed his first Premiership start after a goalscoring debut in the FA Cup against Villa.
And he almost hit the target after four minutes, meeting Gary Neville’s cross perfectly, only for Villa keeper Thomas Sorensen to save his header diving low to his right.
United did not have to wait long for the opener, however, and it came after 11 minutes.
Park scored with a right-foot finish after Villa were troubled by another Neville cross and Gary Cahill presented the South Korean with his opportunity.
And United added a second two minutes later, when Park set up Carrick for another low drive that Sorensen touched but could not save.
United were out of sight 11 minutes before half-time when a calamitous passage of defending by Villa was deservedly punished.
The Premiership leaders made a mess of a short corner, but Gavin McCann presented the ball to Park, who fed Carrick and his perfect cross was headed in at the far post by Ronaldo.
Milan Baros had battled gamely up front, and he offered Villa the slenderest of lifelines after 51 minutes with a strong run and cross that left youngster Agbonlahor with a simple finish from three yards.
United continued to dominate, and almost added a fourth after 67 minutes through Louis Saha, who had replaced the tiring Park.
Neville unlocked Villa’s defence with another right-wing raid, and when Sorensen failed to hold his cross, it took a desperate goal-line block by Cahill to deny the France striker.
United were threatening to score with every attack, Sorensen saving brilliantly from Larsson and the unlucky Wayne Rooney striking the bar with a curling 20-yard effort.
Rooney’s frustration at failing to hit the target had grown, and he was rightly shown a yellow card by referee Howard Webb for a senseless lunge at Baros.
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