Manchester United’s recent dip in form came to an end in a comfortable 3-0 win over Aston Villa thanks to a double by Danny Welbeck and a rare goal by Tom Cleverly.
Manager David Moyes said his team’s performance was ‘much more like it’ as they cruised past a Villa team that offered little in what proved to be an easy afternoon for United goalkeeper David De Gea.
Welbeck’s first goal on 15 minutes came from a throw-in tight against the right hand touchline. Rafael De Silva threw the ball to Antonio Valencia who flicked the ball towards the right hand corner and from the tightest of angles, Rafael crossed the ball which was met by the unmarked Adnan Januzaj. His powerful header hit the left hand post and was turned in by Welbeck from six yards out.
Januzaj thought his chance had come three minutes later when the ball was whipped in from the right by Valencia. But just as the young Belgian winger was about to pounce, Welbeck nipped in front to poke the ball home again for his second poacher’s finish.
The game was over seven minutes into the second half when Villa once again gave the ball away from their own throw-in on the United right. A one-two between Yacuba Sylla and Antonio Luna was miscued which allowed Wayne Rooney to intercept. The England striker powered into the box and slid the ball to the right were Cleverly tucked the ball inside Brad Guzan's left hand post for his first goal in a year.
The second half saw the long awaited return of United midfielder Darren Fletcher who received a thunderous welcome from both his own fans and some of the Villa supporters after being out for a long spell with a chronic bowel problem. Every pass from the Scot was met with a loud cheer and it was clear Fletcher was delighted to be playing again.
United boss Moyes said Fletcher was an inspiration to others who have suffered career threatening problems. "To people who do have illnesses, it says to keep going and believing, and Darren has done that. I thought when he came on it looked like he had never been away.”
Aston Villa’s topsy turvy winter period continued with little for the 42,000 plus crowd to cheer about. Despite a bright start they seemed to run out of ideas very quickly and were left to chase the game without really threatening the United goal.
Striker Christian Benteke had another off day and was replaced by Libor Kozak but Villa manager Paul Lambert was quick to defend the Belgian saying he would get over his fallow period which stretches back to September.
Lambert said he was more disappointed by the way his team gave the ball away. “The first goal was poor as we should have stopped the cross and the second and third goals, we were in possession before they scored,” he said.