Manchester United made a welcome return to winning ways in the Barclays Premier League with a ruthless and comprehensive 3-0 win over Aston Villa.
Danny Welbeck struck in the 15th and 18th minutes, while Tom Cleverley’s first goal for exactly a year effectively killed the game off early in the second half.
The three points efficiently earned at a cold and wet Villa Park moved the Reds up in the table, extending an unbeaten away run in the league to five games and giving a timely boost ahead of a festive fixture programme of four league outings.
With Robin van Persie injured for around a month, David Moyes’s decision to pick Welbeck up front was rewarded in perfect style with two clinical finishes from the 23-year-old. Adnan Januzaj was inches away from opening the scoring when his header to a pin-point cross from Rafael hit the base of the post, but Welbeck showed his predatory instincts to volley the rebound in past a helpless Brad Guzan in Villa’s goal.
The hosts, who had looked in a confident mood early on, were shaken by the opener and the Reds were quick to take advantage. Welbeck exchanged passes with Antonio Valencia before sprinting into the box to get to the return from the flank just ahead of Januzaj to slide the ball home.
United’s iron grip on the game tightened when Cleverley drilled the ball past Guzan seven minutes into a second half which also saw the welcome return of Darren Fletcher, back as a substitute for his first appearance since Boxing Day 2012. David De Gea made a good save to his right to deny El Ahmadi’s free kick, while Welbeck’s cheeky chip just failed to give him a deserved hat-trick.