Rooney double sinks Villa

Manchester United 3 Aston Villa 1

Wayne Rooney produced an instant response to Sir Alex Ferguson's demand for the Manchester United striker to reach double figures this season with a double for the Premier League leaders in their win over Aston Villa.

It was the first time Rooney has scored two in a game for almost 11 months and, in front of England coach Fabio Capello, took his seasonal tally to five.

By way of a side issue, the striker's efforts also ensured United matched the efforts of the 1999 Treble-winners by matching their club record 29 league games unbeaten and at the same time maintaining a five-point advantage over Arsenal in the title race.

Not that Rooney's efforts, a brilliant goal after just 50 seconds and a tap-in during first-half stoppage time, ensured three points on their own.

Ferguson's side were also indebted to skipper Nemanja Vidic, who calmed nerves by driving home from 18 yards after Darren Bent had dragged Villa back into it.

Ferguson could hardly have timed his pre-match address better.

There were plenty who had wondered whether Javier Hernandez's recent goalscoring efforts might have earned the Mexican a starting berth alongside Dimitar Berbatov this evening.

That was clearly not part of Ferguson's thinking, choosing his programme notes to extol Rooney's wider contribution.

Yet, amid the praise was also a target for the 25-year-old to aim for. Some distance short of the 34 he managed last term but a significant improvement on the three he went into the game with.

And Rooney wasted absolutely no time in responding.

There were just 50 seconds on the clock when Edwin van der Sar launched a clearance deep into Villa territory from just outside his own area.

Rooney took one touch to control, then belted the ball past Brad Friedel, Richard Dunne's lack of pace having already been cruelly exposed.

With the exception of one Bent effort, which Van der Sar saved low to his right, United dominated thereafter.

Berbatov failed to threaten with a couple of close-range efforts. Nani got a bit closer, one attempt bringing a brilliant save out of Friedel, whose appearance gave him the title of the oldest player in Villa history.

Ryan Giggs also made the veteran American work with a mazy run and shot that forced a low save by the post.

Yet, as injury-time approached, United were still waiting for that crucial second which would have set their minds at ease.

Having started the half by finding the net, it was appropriate Rooney should finish it that way too.

He would be the first to admit Nani deserved all the credit though.

Nipping about in that frustrating way of his, the Portugal winger looked up and saw Rooney at the far post.

The delivery was perfect, curling round the back of the Villa defence, too far out for Friedel to contemplate an interception, then dropping perfectly for Rooney, who tapped home with ease.

Yet what looked like an easy win, turned into a very nervous few minutes in the second half as Villa found some inspiration.

Ashley Young started it when he curled a 20-yard free-kick narrowly wide.

The England man was at the hub of Villa's attacks and when Anderson, Patrice Evra and Vidic all failed to prevent him prodding a pass out to Stewart Downing, suddenly United were in trouble.

Downing took out Rio Ferdinand with an excellent cross and Bent does what Gerard Houllier paid £23million for, finishing with ease.

When Marc Albrighton smacked an effort goalwards from 30 yards, alarm bells started ringing amongst the home support, who could not have imagined who would turn up to ease their nerves.

Vidic is not noted for scoring with anything other than his head.

But, having nodded the ball on to Rooney from a United corner, the Serbian hung around long enough to receive the return, striding on to it confidently before drilling past Friedel.

Berbatov should have scored near the end but inexplicably fired over from eight yards after Friedel had denied Nani.

The American was also called upon to repel Rooney's hat-trick bid before the final whistle, although after such a tortuous season, the England star could be pretty pleased with his contribution anyway.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
Sport
Lewis Hamilton with the Santander trophy after winning last year’s British Grand Prix
F1It's the race organisers who are to blame, apparently
News
peopleFormer Disney CEO isn't going to win any fans with this quote
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

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test