Aston Villa were given a lesson in football on Sunday as Premier League leaders Manchester United put their Wigan Athletic blip behind them with an impressive 4-0 rout at Old Trafford.
Alex McLeish had warned his players before the game to be careful when attempting tackles in and around the penalty area, as Queens Park Rangers’ Shaun Derry found out only last weekend. This time it was Ciaran Clark who fell foul to Ashley Young’s theatrical tumbles, winning a penalty for Manchester United within the first seven minutes. Referee Mark Halsey pointed to the spot and Wayne Rooney stepped up to score his 30th goal of the season. Although there was contact on Young, it was minimal to say the least, and Villa were very unlucky to concede a penalty from such a minor collision.
Manchester United dominated most of the first-half, two spectacular volleys from Paul Scholes almost doubling their lead – Given managed to keep out the first, with the second flying just past the post. It looked like Villa would keep the score down to just one, but the champions were not to be denied the second goal they had been pressing for since Rooney’s penalty conversion. Young blasted the ball across the Aston Villa six yard box and Shay Given was left stranded as Danny Welbeck crept in at the back post to tap the ball home from only two yards out, as Nathan Baker had made what proved to be the incorrect decision to try and let the ball go out of play for a goal kick.
Villa could only muster two attempts on target throughout the whole game, with substitute Emile Heskey’s late header the best that they could manage. Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea easily tipped his header over the bar, and it was not long before United were threatening at the other end once more. In the 73rd minute, wicked wing play from Antonio Valencia gave Rooney the chance to score his second, and United’s third. The in-form striker took his chance well, with a slight deflection from defender James Collins giving goalkeeper Given no chance.
United completed the rout late on as substitute Luis Nani latched onto an excellent through ball by United defender Jonny Evans. Nani had missed the previous half a dozen games with an ankle injury, but looked sharp as he calmly placed the ball past the onrushing Villa ‘keeper Given to confirm a vital victory for Manchester United and add to McLeish’s lurking relegation concerns.
The result leaves Villa precariously close to the drop zone, as they have been for quite a long period of time this season. With only one win in their last 11 league games, Villa have hit a bad run of form at the worst possible time, and McLeish must rally his troops if they are to stay clear of the chasing pack as they enter the final five games of the Premier League season.
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