Manchester United 3 v 1 Aston Villa

Old Trafford, Manchester
22nd January 2005

Manchester United continued their excellent form of late with yet another victory. This time it was a shabby looking Aston Villa side that were taken apart by the men in red.

With Rio and Gary Neville returning to the side in defence, United's defence were pretty much able to cope with anything Villa could muster - though the shock recall of Roy Carroll as first choice keeper left United fans feeling slightly vulnerable. And a midfield and attack of Rooney, Ronaldo, Saha and Scholes virtually guaranteed United a goal.

Ronaldo was an inspiration from the starting whistle. He weaved his way around the Villa box, generally dazzling them with his skills before crossing the ball into the box or making measured passes. His control was majestic as he skipped past player after player of the Villa side. Indeed, his feet were so quick that the majority of Villa's yellow cards came from late tackles on Ronaldo! He was a threat all the game, and thoroughly deserved to be named Man of the Match.

And Ronaldo it was who opened the scoring. Rooney and Saha combined well before Saha laid the ball off to the Portuguese maestro. Unlike in previous games this season, Ronaldo had his shooting boots on, and sharply drilled the ball home from the edge of the area.

United should have killed off the game long before half-time, but instead were left reeling as Villa cobbled together only their third attack of the game and were gifted with a goal. Carroll blamed Gary Neville, but Goalkeepers will always try to blame someone else.

The game was finely balanced with half-an-hour to go, and it looked like United were going to have one of those days as Villa dominated a ten-minute spell. Then, thankfully, Louis Saha managed to find enough space to shoot at goal. His shot may have taken a lucky deflection off the back-heel of a Villa defender, but they all count!

The game was pretty much over when Paul Scholes scored United's third goal just under a minute later. Ronaldo had twisted two defenders in knots, ran into the area, and blasted the ball towards goal. The Villa keeper managed to get a hand to it, but could only watch in horror as the ball glided straight into the path of Scholes, who headed the ball home and ran off to celebrate!

This wasn't United at their best, but we're getting there. When Ruud comes back, we'll have a team that can not only close the eleven point gap between us and Chelsea, but one that will easily rise above it. It's looking optomistic for the rest of the season, and there's still 4 trophies to play for!

Man Utd: Carroll, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze, Fletcher (Fortune 45), Scholes (O'Shea 73), Keane, Ronaldo, Rooney (Giggs 73), Saha.

Subs Not Used: Howard, Brown.
Booked: Keane, Ronaldo.
Goals: Ronaldo 8, Saha 69, Scholes 70.

Aston Villa: Sorensen, Delaney (De la Cruz 11), Ridgewell, Mellberg, Samuel, Solano (Luke Moore 74), Davis, Berson (Hitzlsperger 45), Barry, Hendrie, Angel.

Subs Not Used: Postma, Cole.
Booked: Berson, Ridgewell, Hendrie, Samuel, Solano.
Goals: Barry 53.

Att: 67,859
Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).