Date:Monday December 19 2005
ASTON VILLA: Sorensen, Delaney, Hughes, Ridgewell, Bouma, Milner (Angel 45), Bakke, Davis, McCann, Barry, Baros.
Subs Not Used: Hendrie, Taylor, De la Cruz, Moore.
MAN UTD: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, O'Shea, Fletcher, Park, Scholes, Giggs (Ronaldo 62), van Nistelrooy, Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Howard, Bardsley, Jones, Rossi.
Crisis? What crisis? United earned them their sixth win in the last seven league games. Mind you it was done by an inspired Wayne Rooney performance, against a HOME side who set their stall out to defend and grab a point! Judging by the formation David O'Leary put on the grass at Villa Park ... they got what they deserved ... nothing.
The Red Devils are on the march, and after the Gunners fell apart against top-of-the-table Chelsea on Sunday, it looks very much like a two horse race. Or perhaps one and a half.
While Liverpool and Chelsea have Europe to occupy their minds, perhaps there was method in the madness of our exit from the European stage, and now we have a clear run on the domestic front. On this evidence could take some stopping in the forthcoming months - especially with Rooney in such fine form.
The England striker was a constant threat to the home rearguard with his pace and power, scoring his 10th goal of the campaign and also linking up play so effectively with Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Park Ji-Sung.
Paul Scholes also gave further evidence that he is back to his best and United have now taken 19 points out of a possible 21 to further ease the pressure on Ferguson.
It is now more than 10 years and 21 matches since United were last beaten by Villa in the Premiership but they would seldom have had a more comfortable ride.
They dominated in terms of possession and were able to knock the ball around in confident fashion against a Villa side who gave the impression they were beaten before the game got under way.
Only Gareth Barry and Mark Delaney emerged with much credit as Villa missed the presence at the back of injured skipper Olof Mellberg.
Rooney threatened for the first time with a crossfield pass which picked out Park but his left-footed drive was blocked by Wilfred Bouma.
Villa's lone striker Milan Baros found himself one-on-one with Rio Ferdinand but he stumbled and the chance went begging.
After seven minutes the woodwork came to Villa's rescue after great vision by Rooney. His reverse pass opened up the home defence and let in Park.
His cross-shot beat Thomas Sorensen but rebounded off the post back into play and no-one was on hand to convert the rebound.
United were not to be denied and two minutes later van Nistelrooy converted his 15th goal of the season to break the deadlock.
The Dutchman seized onto Darren Fletcher's through ball and was able to move goal-side of Aaron Hughes before calmly clipping the ball past Sorensen into the corner of the net.
United were finding so much space when they attacked and there were five players in the Villa box when Paul Scholes sent a flick header from Ryan Giggs' cross straight at Sorensen.
A couple of challenges involving Rooney and Gavin McCann temporarily livened up the home crowd but United continued to dominate and Sorensen had to be alert to turn over an overhead kick from the edge of the box by Van Nistelrooy.
Rooney should have at least hit the target after Ferdinand had flicked on a corner from Giggs but he drove his shot back across goal.
Ferdinand had the confidence to make a surging run forward before playing in Park and it needed a fine block tackle from Delaney to halt the South Korean.
O'Leary decided to adopt a more adventurous approach in the second period and brought on Juan Pablo Angel as the second striker alongside Baros as he reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.
But after 50 minutes Rooney confirmed United's superiority by doubling their advantage with his 10th goal of the campaign.
Park was the creator with a well-weighted pass but Rooney had so much space to run into before firing a low shot past Sorensen and into the net via the far post.
Giggs fired over when well placed after more good work by the on-song Rooney.
Barry briefly threatened and a first-time effort from Barry was only just wide with United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar flat-footed.
Angel became the first player to be yellow-carded after 62 minutes for a touchline challenge on Ferdinand.
The woodwork came to United's rescue when Baros crashed a left-footed shot against the bar from close range after meeting a low cross from Angel.
But United ended on top with Van Nistelrooy having a shot blocked by Ridgewell and heading wide from substitute Cristiano Ronaldo's cross.
Date:Monday December 19 2005
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