It was all about the response from United to the shock defeat at Wigan and Manchester City's thumping win at Norwich on Saturday. Sir Alex's players answered any questions regarding title credentials emphatically with Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and substitute Nani amongst the goals in a match the leaders dominated from start to finish.
Rooney netted an early penalty after ex-Villan Ashley Young was fouled and scored his team's third when on the brink of being substituted. United scored at the end of both halves, through Welbeck and Nani, as the champions opened up a five-point lead again at the top with four games remaining.
The Reds immediately conceded a chance to Andreas Weimann, who forced a save out of David De Gea, but any thoughts of a hangover from Wednesday were soon dispelled. With only six minutes on the clock, Young tricked his way into the box and was tripped by Ciaran Clark with referee Mark Halsey pointing to the spot. Alex McLeish had warned his players not to make rash challenges on the former Villa winger but it wasn't heeded and Rooney camly added to his personal tally against Shay Given by sending the former Newcastle and Manchester City keeper the wrong way from the spot for his 30th goal of the season.
Some of United's technical play was of the highest calibre but the visitors defended manfully, putting bodies on the line with Eric Lichaj and James Collins blocking efforts from Welbeck. Rooney worked Given after a neat cut-back by Rafael but the visitors still carried a threat with Barry Bannan's free-kick headed wide by Clark.
Rooney screwed a header off target when Michael Carrick headed on a Young corner before Paul Scholes took centre stage. After trying to replicate his famous volley against Villa with a textbook strike that Given fielded, the evergreen midfielder then tried to re-enact his classic at