Wayne Rooney scored twice as Manchester United bounced back from defeat with a 4-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford, restoring their five-point lead atop the Premier League.
A seventh-minute penalty from Rooney left a sour taste in the mouth after Villa old-boy Ashley Young theatrically milked Ciaran Clark’s contact, while Danny Welbeck tapped home from close range after Villa let a low Patrice Evra cross fizz across goal.
Villa escaped conceding a clear penalty when Nathan Baker handled, sweetening the Young row, which saw the visitors coaching staff complain to referee Mark Halsey at half-time.
Rooney – who had a mediocre game by his standards – struck a deflected third with Nani adding an injury-time fourth as United saw Villa off with ease in the end.
The result puts Sir Alex Ferguson’s defending champions on 82 points with four matches remaining, their next encounter a derby with second-placed Manchester City at Eastlands.
Alex McLeish’s side lie on 35 points, six clear of the drop zone with five games to play.