With only stoppage time remaining, there was really no time for Martin O'Neill's side to recover - especially when it was a side so devoid of any real attacking threat. United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar had even less to do than he did in his previous appearance, when he kept a clean sheet at Liverpool in mid-December.
Van der Sar's return was one of four changes to the team which narrowly defeated Villa’s arch-rivals Birmingham on New Year’s Day. Ryan Giggs replaced Nani, Louis Saha deputised for the injured Carlos Tevez and Wes Brown - the subject of a rejected bid from Newcastle - returned at right-back at the expense of John O’Shea.
Anderson fired the first shot across Villa's bows when he burst forward from midfield in the fifth minute. The Brazilian travelled a similar distance to Giggs in his epic ’99 goal on the same ground but unlike Arsenal, Aston Villa didn’t present a string of defenders for the United attacker to slalom around. The exposed Carson blocked Anderson's shot, although it was too strong for the Villa keeper to clutch it at the first time of asking.