Undefeated streak extended to 29...Manchester United sent out a warning to their Premier League rivals, that they will not be giving up the top slot in the table easily, as a double from Wayne Rooney and a Nemanja Vidic goal saw the Old Trafford side extend their undefeated streak this season to 29 matches with a comfortable victory over Aston Villa.
The home side made ten changes from their weekend FA Cup victory over Southampton, with John O’Shea being the only survivor as he started in place of the injured Rafael Da Silva in the Manchester United first XI.
Those changes paid dividends after less than one minute when Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar launched a long free kick onto the feet of Rooney, who expertly brought the ball down before rifling the ball into the roof of the Aston Villa goal.
From then on the hosts maintained dominance in the game and should have had a penalty on the quarter hour mark, when Nani raced in from the right hand side and was barged to the ground by Richard Dunne, but unfortunately for the Portuguese winger referee Chris Foy waved away the claims for a spot-kick.
Straight after that incident the visitors could have got back on level terms as Ashley Young found Darren Bent, but the striker could not apply the finish, as his shot from just outside the area went tamely into the arms of Van der Sar in the home goal.
Midway through the half United could have extended their lead even further as Nani had a shot from the edge of the area, after the Villa defence had failed to clear the ball properly. Aston Villa keeper Brad Friedel was able to turn the ball round his left hand post for a corner.
With half an hour on the clock Ryan Giggs was the next to have a strike at the Villa goal with his right foot, but Friedel managed to save the ball and keep his side from going further behind.
Minutes later the home side were forced to make a change as Scotland Captain Darren Fletcher was forced from the field with a blood injury on his 27th birthday. He was replaced by Anderson in the heart of the Manchester United midfield.
United could have got a second goal through Patrice Evra's overlap on the left hand side, gaining the ball from Giggs before rattling a strike towards goalkeeper Friedel, who managed to save at the second attempt to keep the visitors in the game.
Deep into injury time in the first half the home side stretched their lead as Nani crossed from the right hand side directly to Rooney who slotted away his second goal of the game past the helpless Friedel in the Villa goal.
Manchester United remained in control for the early stages of the second half, with Villa failing to trouble them until with just over ten minutes gone, Stewart Downing raced down the right hand side before finding Bent free inside the box, to stroke the visitors back into the game.
That goal woke up the home side, as they raced up the park, in order to regain their two goal lead, but as Giggs and Rooney exchanged passes with each other, the veteran midfielder could not find the finish.
They eventually did regain their two goal lead minutes later as Aston Villa failed to deal with a corner, which was then crossed into the box from the right side, with Vidic knocking the ball down to Rooney, who unselfishly played the ball back to the Serbian for him to power the ball past Friedel and into the back of the net.
In an attempt to get back into the game, Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier decided to bring on both Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor for Mark Albrighton and Stiliyan Petrov as they went in search of the goals that would snatch a point from the league leaders.
With quarter of an hour left Rooney raced onto a long ball from the right and towards Friedel, looking to complete his hat-trick, Dunne managed to get a foot to the ball before the United hitman could get his treble.
The home side had an excellent chance to extend their lead, Nani firstly, had a chance which was saved by Friedel, but the rebound landed at the feet of Berbatov, but as the home supporters were ready to rise off their seats to acclaim the Bulgarian his strike went over the bar and into those supporters.
Rooney should have claimed his hat-trick, as the ball dropped to him at the edge of the area, but unfortunately for the England striker, Friedel managed to dive to his left side and batted the ball away from danger.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side managed to see the rest of the game out and maintained their five point advantage at the top of the Premier League, also extending their undefeated streak this season to a total of 29 league games.