The Reds fielded a strong side due to the blank week at first-team level with Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Fabio all starting. Yet it was two of the regulars who ensured the hosts enjoyed a two-goal lead inside 11 minutes.
Fabio recovered from a dreadful early tackle from Samir Carruthers to pick up a Matty James pass on the left and cross for Will Keane to divert a deft header past Benjamin Siegrist to end a run of six games without a goal.
A matter of 70 seconds later, James passed to the opposite flank where Ritchie De Laet centred and Jesse Lingard exploded a spectacular volley into the net to highlight the Reds' superiority.
Paul Pogba was unable to convert another De Laet cross then lashed a volley over the top while Daniel Johnson fired a rare attempt too high at the other end. Fabio was really embracing playing at this level and bent an outstanding effort against the outside of a post with Lingard further off target with a similar attempt soon afterwards.
United were worth more than the two-goal lead at the interval with Siegrist pulling off a smart save to thwart Pogba, but Villa started the second period brightly and pulled a goal back when Johnson profited from the referee playing the advantage to blast a dipping shot of real quality beyond Sam Johnstone.
It only really served to sting Warren Joyce's side into action again with Swiss keeper Siegrist doing well to keep out Will Keane and Pogba before Lingard was ever so unlucky to see a curling drive thud back off the woodwork.