[Premier League] Manchester United 4-1 Aston VIlla
ManUtd: Wayne Rooney (20, 45pen), Juan Mata (57), Javier Hernandez (90)
Villa: Ashley Westwood (13)
Manchester United roared back from conceding first to Aston Villa thanks to a brace by Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata's first goal for the club since his record move from Chelsea and Javier Hernandez's late effort.
David Moyes' men made a disappointing start and fell behind when David De Gea was unable to keep out Ashley Westwood's powerful free-kick on 13 minutes. Yet Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa switched positions regularly to good effect and both were involved in the move that led to the equaliser as Rooney expertly headed past Brad Guzan.
Rooney was on the scoresheet again with an emphatically-taken penalty just before the interval, after Leandro Bacuna chopped down Mata as he dragged the ball back inside the area. Christian Benteke missed a sitter when miskicking and allowing substitute Michael Carrick, on at centre-back, to clear. The muscular striker also headed over a Marc Albrighton cross moments later.
However, Alex Büttner's brave header led to Marouane Fellaini supplying a touch inside the area and the ball broke to Mata, who calmly found the net in front of the Stretford End for United's third. Guzan thwarted substitute Adnan Januzaj and Rooney, with Benteke and Aleksandar Tonev unable to convert openings for the Midlanders.
With time running out, the lively Januzaj crossed for fellow sub Hernandez to poke home a fourth as the Reds warmed up nicely for Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
The match United looked up against it when Aston Villa scored with a set-piece, following their first real attack of any threat, but Wayne Rooney's brace and second-half strikes by Juan Mata and Javier Hernandez turned things around in style. The Reds were pretty ruthless in front of goal and played with more confidence than was displayed in the derby defeat to Manchester City to ensure spirit is high ahead of Tuesday's visit of European champions Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
The goals Rafael fouled Gabriel Agbonlahor after Ashley Young lost possession to allow Ashley Westwood to flight a free-kick past David De Gea, despite the Spaniard getting a hand to it. The Reds responded with a cushioned header by Rooney from a Shinji Kagawa centre which kissed the post on the way in. Rooney added a first-half stoppage time with an unerring penalty, awarded for Leandro Bacuna's clear trip on Juan Mata after he had been fed by Kagawa. Mata calmed any nerves by steering in his first goal for the club on 57 minutes when the ball broke for him in the box. Adnan Januzaj provided menace when coming off the bench and his left-wing cross allowed fellow substitute Javier Hernandez to round things off nicely in the closing stages.
Star man Rooney led the line superbly but was ably supported by Mata and Kagawa, who showed their footballing nous. With David Moyes giving Rooney and Kagawa a breather, the fans were able to show an appreciation for their efforts while Mata clearly enjoyed notching his first goal for the club.
Sub-plot Many felt the Reds would have one eye on Tuesday's Champions League clash with Bayern Munich and the selection of Alex Büttner suggested the manager wanted to give the Dutchman another run-out with Patrice Evra suspended in midweek. Much of the build-up had concentrated on unwelcome off-the-field distractions but the match-going public voiced their opposition to an unsettling publicity stunt and, eventually, United took control of matters on the pitch.
The opposition Villa were described as a 'Jekyll and Hyde' team by Moyes beforehand and started well. However, they appeared susceptible to lofted balls over the defence and struggled to contain the Reds' fluid front-runners. To be fair, if Christian Benteke had been sharper in attack, they might have made life more difficult but they were well beaten in the end - even if Chicharito's fourth was perhaps a little unfair on them in terms of the margin of defeat.
Move of the match The first United goal illustrated the creative impact Mata and Kagawa can have on the team. Rafael pounced on a slip by Agbonlahor to feed Mata, with the Spaniard intelligently switching the ball wide to Kagawa. The Japan international drifted inside to deliver a ball with real purpose that was superbly finished by an unmarked Rooney.
In the stands Moyes unusually walked to the dug-out before the teams made their entrance and he received warm applause from the supporters. Villa's opener in front of the Stretford End dampened the mood but there was plenty of noise again once Rooney levelled the scores. A huge roar greeted the announcement of Mata's maiden strike ahead of a rousing chorus of '20 times' from all four ends of the ground as the Reds fans went home happy.