Manchester United 4 Aston Villa 1 match report: Wayne Rooney's timely support act

England striker scores twice as United do their best to ease the pressure on manager Moyes but victory is unconvincing

Old Trafford

From plane spotting to plain sailing. By the end, when Javier Hernandez contributed the fourth, there was even a glimpse of the instinctive Manchester United of old to propel them into the only remaining match that counts in their season – Bayern Munich on Tuesday. David Moyes allowed himself to linger a while, in the shadow of the Stretford End before vanishing away into the stadium. The response there confirmed that the fans who had hired a plane to make their feelings really did not reflect the majority view.

Moyes could afford a kind of defiance. For once his team repaired things having fallen behind – this being only the fourth time they have won in the 16 occasions their opponents have scored first this season – and there were signs of life in places where they have not often been seen. Marouane Fellaini added to the impression that he can add value to United, working box-to-box. Juan Mata finally – “he had been feeling it a bit he missed a chance in midweek,” Moyes reflected after the game. And in the combination of Mata and Shinji Kagawa there was promise of better days ahead.

'Wrong One - Moyes Out' banner paraded over Old Trafford

The supporters whose dubious idea it was to commission a pilot to trail a “Wrong One – Moyes Out” banner across the sky as the game got under way were not covered in glory. The sight of a bookmaker’s own plane flying the same skies contributed to one of the less classy moments in the history of this place. Moyes’ decision to walk into the stadium before the players – an old Jose Mourinho device – was a bold one, designed to help affirm his view that most of the supporters are behind him. Gary Neville tweeted before kick-off that United fans should sing Moyes’ name – or boo – during the stunt and though his plea was not widely heeded, the gimmick seemd to draw support for the manager.

Moyes enjoyed his reception: “The support inside Old Trafford has been terrific and if ever there was a show of support for their football club and for their team, it was today.”

Moyes is in a cleft stick – yo-yoing between the argument that he posited again on Friday that this squad is not all it was cracked up to be and then affirming that they can deliver what they have in the past. In his programme notes he said that he and his backroom team were trying to encourage the players to rediscover their confidence, form and belief.

 

But Aston Villa, a side who had won only once here in the Premier League era, were a good match for the new United and it was no great shock when they took the lead. Ashley Young lost he ball to his former teammate Gabriel Agbonlahor, who drew the foul from Rafael that gave Ashley Westwood the free-kick he despatched into the net.

United’s half-time lead was more a product of good luck than judgement. They profited from more of Kagawa’s attacking thrusts than we have seen in this poor season for him, and he delivered the cross which Wayne Rooney, stationary and unhindered, headed home. But the side stuttered and stalled, engaged in the kind of struggle to make rapid, correct decisions that has characterised the season, while Villa displayed a defensive strength that looked able to cause them more frustration. For Villa, there was the assurance of Ciaran Clark, blocking Rooney’s dangerous early shot. For United, there was nothing of the sort.

And though Kagawa prodced the  ball to Mata which brought Leandro Bacuna’s clumsy challenge and the penalty with which Rooney put United ahead, Villa continued to look just as likely to score. The scale of the victory does not reflect the dreadful five-minute spell early in the second half when United had Christian Benteke to thank for not plunging them into another calamity. Benteke found an air shot when Alexander Büttner allowed him to spring the offside trap and face down David de Gea in the six-yard box. Benteke immediately sent a firm header over de Gea’s crossbar after rising to Marc Albrighton’s pinpoint cross. “I can’t be too critical. He has scored some vital goals,” Paul Lambert, Villa’s manager, reflected.

Rooney provides springboard ahead of 'massive' Bayern clash

This was not the first United team to ride some luck, even though the third goal needed another slice of it. The ball rebounded off the heel of Ron Vlaar after Büttner had headed it into danger, from where Fellaini navigated it into Mata’s path to score.

That margin allowed United to exhibit some belief. Rooney’s breathtaking control of a long diagonal ball created space, forcing a strong save Brad Guzan. The goalkeeper was helpless when Adnan Januzaj, a substitute, displayed immense pace down the left and crossed for Hernandez to score. Lambert reflected that “it was no three-goal swing” though the sight of a manager leaving this stadium making futile claims of daylight robbery was a reminder of United’s glorious past. There was no better preparation for Munich than this.

Line-ups:

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael (Carrick, h-t), Jones, Vidic, Büttner; Young, Fellaini, Fletcher, Kagawa (Januzaj, 68); Mata, Rooney (Hernandez, 75)

Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Bertrand; Westwood, Delph, Albrighton (Lowton, 79), Weimann Benteke, Agbonlahor (Tonev, 71).

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Man of the match: Rooney (Manchester Utd)

Match rating: 7/10

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup