Soon afterwards, an error by Richard Dunne gifted Wayne Rooney possession and the ball was relayed to Nani via Valencia, only for Given to push away the Portugal international's header. United assumed total command and Valencia blasted a terrific effort just over the bar after picking up a loose ball in midfield ahead of his team-mate Rooney.
The stop-start nature of the first half continued when Given was taken off with a hamstring injury and replaced by Brad Guzan, who had only appeared in the Barclays Premier League once before. United were unable to test the American before the interval, despite eight minutes of injury time being played, but it was Villa who were jeered off when the half-time whistle sounded.
Although dominant, United failed to really press home the advantage after the break. Rooney tricked his way past Barry Bannan but his shot deflected wide without a corner being given and Nani's effort was easily fielded by Guzan. Villa twice gifted the ball to blue shirts, only to recover with saving tackles from Stephen Warnock and James Collins on Rooney and Jones respectively.
But there was no real fluidity to the match as Jermaine Jenas became the latest injury victim, while Sir Alex opted to bring Rio Ferdinand off and shuffle things around with Jones dropping into defence. Inevitably, Villa finally carved out some openings themselves but substitute Emile Heskey was unable to convert a Dunne flick-on at the far post and James Collins' header was tipped over by Lindegaard after more approach work by the Irish defender.
Young mustered a low shot wide and a tame shot straight at Guzan as the Reds realised the need to get the job done. Indeed, Sir Alex threw on fit-again striker Danny Welbeck, in place of winger Young, in recognition of the need to provide a greater threat at the other end. Rooney