MAN UNITED 4, ASTON VILLA 1
On the day the critics of David Moyes took to the sky above Old Trafford to call for his removal, Manchester United produced one of their best displays of the season.
Two goals from Wayne Rooney and one apiece from Juan Mata and Javier Hernandez helped the Reds overcome Aston Villa and ease the pressure on manager Moyes.
It was a relatively straightforward victory, even though there were anxious moments in the early stages of the match.
Barely had the light aircraft trailing the banner ‘the wrong one, Moyes out’ disappeared than Villa snatched the lead from Ashley Westwood’s free kick.
The goal provided a new challenge in the wake of the 3-0 home defeat in the Manchester derby, but United responded positively with a four-goal riposte to send fans home happy.
While Villa manager Paul Lambert thought the scoreline was “harsh” on his side, Moyes believed his side were worthy winners.
He said: “We didn’t get off to a good start in the first 10/15 minutes, but after that did a good job.
“The players did well and scored some good goals, especially the fourth one which was well worked.”
Moyes was delighted to see Mata score his first goal for the club saying it had been coming.
He explained: “Juan deserved it as he has helped the team with his all-round play. And he has a good goalscoring record which is why we brought him in.
“He had a chance in midweek and two at West Ham last Saturday and I felt the chances were coming.”
Moyes was also pleased with the support for both him and the team in the wake of recent criticisms.
“The supporters inside Old Trafford were terrific. If ever there was a show of support for the club and the team, it was today,” he said.
Moyes was applauded as he made his way to his touchline vantage point before the game and again at the end as he left at the end.
United, badly in need of a pick-me-up following six home league defeats, could not have made a worse start as they fell behind in the 13th minute after Rafael Da Silva was booked for a foul on Gabriel Agbonlahor just outside the box.
Westwood curled the resulting free kick over the defensive wall and past keeper David De Gea who could only help the ball into the net as a seventh loss looked a probability. They had never endured a record that bad since the relegation season of 1973/74.
After a difficult opening in which they looked in for another bumpy ride, United finally had something to cheer as they drew level seven minutes later through Rooney.
Shinji Kagawa provided a perfect cross from the left and Rooney’s cushioned headed evade the despairing dive of keeper Brad Guzan.
United moved ahead on the stroke of half time when Rooney struck again with his 171st goal in the Premier League as he moved ahead of Frank Lampard into fourth place in the all-time scoring list.
Kagawa’s through ball released Juan Mata who was brought down by Leandro Bacuna enabling Rooney to score from the spot for his 17th goal of the season.
Significantly it was also his 12th goal against Villa in the Premier League, the most goals he has scored against a top-flight club.
Villa ought to have equalised early in the second period when Ashley Westwood’s cross from the left found Christian Benteke completely free at the far post, but he contrived to shoot over.
Benteke went close again minutes later heading just over following a pinpoint cross from Marc Albrighton.
United eased the nerves, though, when they added a third goal in the 57th minute when Mata scored his first goal since his £37.1million move from Chelsea in January.
Alexander Buttner headed the ball into the box and a lay off by Marouane Fellaini set up Mata who found the net with a low shot from 10 yards.
Rooney was denied his hat trick and a fourth goal for United by a brilliant block by Guzan as United were able to play with more freedom and confidence now they held a comfortable lead.
United add a fourth goal in stoppage time when substitutes Adnan Januzaj and Hernandez combined.
Januzaj skipped a challenge from Fabian Delph on the left before crossing to the far post for Hernandez to fire into the roof of the net from inside the six-yard box.