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

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
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

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits