Rooney brace sends Utd clear
Rooney, Welbeck and Nani on target at Old Trafford
Last Updated: 16/04/12 3:26pm
Wayne Rooney scored a brace as Manchester United beat Aston Villa 4-0 to re-establish their five point lead at the top of the Premier League.
The England striker notched the opener from the penalty spot in the seventh minute after Ashley Young had taken a tumble under the challenge of Ciaran Clark.
Referee Mark Halsey had no doubts about awarding the spot-kick despite there not being much contact and Young's fall being theatrical.
Danny Welbeck then doubled the advantage with a close range effort two minutes before the break after the Villa defenders failed to deal with Patrice Evra's cross.
Rooney added his second on 73 minutes following a one-two with Antonio Valencia and Nani wrapped up the win with a stoppage time fourth.
The result means Villa remain in trouble, six points clear of third-bottom Bolton, who also have a game in hand.
But, with four games to go, it is the battle at the top that is concentrating minds, and the behaviour of Young that is provoking ire.
Seven days ago, the former Aston Villa man was at the centre of a diving row when he went down under minimal contact from Shaun Derry.
As the FA upheld Derry's suspension, Young's behaviour was excused, even if his reputation took a knock.
Now there will be more questions about his willingness to bend the rules following the latest penalty.
After Halsey pointed to the spot at Old Trafford, Rooney kept his nerve and sent Shay Given the wrong way.
It was his 30th goal of the season and the 10th time he has scored against Given, now top of the list of his favourite keepers.
United dominated thereafter. Given's reaction save denied Welbeck, recalled along with veteran midfielder Paul Scholes, who met two thunderous volleys perfectly.
Given kept out the first, the second whistled wide at astonishing speed.
Though clearly limited, Villa did enough to keep their band of supporters interested and both Clark and Stephen Ireland went close during rare counter-attacks.
United needed a second to calm any remaining nerves and Nathan Baker duly provided a gift shortly before the break.
In allowing Evra's low cross to run under his leg at the far-post, Baker presumably thought the ball was heading out for a goal-kick.
He was mistaken.
Instead, Welbeck slid in to nudge home from close range, his 11th goal of the season, but only his second since January.
It was a defensive lapse that has been so prominent in Villa's season to date and clearly the finishing line cannot come soon enough.
They do have some tricky hurdles to negotiate yet, though, including a home encounter with Bolton, and the loss of Clark, who was groggily helped off after trying to continue following an accidental clash with Evra, did not help matters.
His replacement, Emile Heskey, came closest for the visitors not long afterwards.
But after his header was tipped over by David de Gea, Rooney spurned a golden opportunity when he mis-hit a 10-yard effort and sent it bobbling harmlessly wide.
It was not long before another chance came Rooney's way.
And this time it ended up in the net, thanks to a significant deflection off James Collins.
Before Villa could restart, Rooney was replaced by Dimitar Berbatov.
It did not seem to be a change the striker was entirely in agreement with.
However, with the clock ticking down on Berbatov's mercurial United career, the home fans did welcome the Bulgarian enthusiastically.It was Nani, who had been introduced for Young after an hour, who provided the final flourish, though, finishing Jonny Evans' lay-off in cool fashion before a trademark somersault celebration.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Aston Villa|
|2||1st Half Goals||0|
|9||Shots on Target||2|
|9||Shots off Target||8|
|67.7||1st Half Poss.||32.3|
|62.8||2nd Half Poss.||37.2|
LIVE and exclusive on Sky Sports
Barclays Premier League
|10||West Ham United||28||31|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||28||25|