Manchester United returned to winning ways after consecutive home defeats in the Premier League with a breezy and much-needed 3-0 victory at Aston Villa yesterday.
Beaten by Everton and Newcastle United in their previous two league outings, United were at risk of losing three successive games for the first time since 2001, but they were dominant at Villa Park.
A quick-fire brace from Danny Welbeck put United in control after only 18 minutes and they added a further goal through Tom Cleverley as they closed to within 10 points of leaders Arsenal.
Victory left the champions six points below the Champions League positions in eighth place, but this was a timely win for manager David Moyes after a desperate run of four games without victory.
“It was a good job from us,” Moyes told Sky Sports. “The players did well and the only thing I would criticise is that we didn’t score more goals. We were a bit sloppy in the first five minutes but after that we played really well.”
Marc Albrighton worked United goalkeeper David de Gea twice in the early stages but a pair of goals from Welbeck put United in command.
Deputising for the injured Robin van Persie, the England forward broke the deadlock in the 15th minute when he slammed home after Adnan Januzaj had headed against the post from a Rafael da Silva cross.
Villa were unable to contain United’s right-sided players and three minutes later the visitors scored another goal from that flank, with Antonio Valencia crossing for the sliding Welbeck to score.
Wayne Rooney, playing in his 500th club game, and Welbeck both went close to extending United’s lead before Cleverley added a third in the 52nd minute with a first-time finish from Rooney’s pass.
It was the England midfielder’s first goal for a year and United were able to celebrate another milestone later in the game when Darren Fletcher came on to make his first appearance after a year out with a chronic bowel condition. Villa, who have not beaten United at home since 1995, remain 11th in the table.
In the day’s other game, Swansea City drew 1-1 at Norwich City in a match overshadowed by an injury to visiting goalscorer Nathan Dyer.
He broke the deadlock with a 12th-minute lob but had to be stretchered off and taken to hospital with a suspected fractured ankle after injuring himself in a duel with Sebastien Bassong. Gary Hooper earned Norwich a share of the spoils in first-half stoppage time, finding the net from 25 yards with a sumptuous, dipping volley.