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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 May, 2004, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Aston Villa 0-2 Man Utd
Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrates his goal
Manchester United dashed Aston Villa's Uefa Cup hopes with a dominant display which was spoiled by the dismissals of Darren Fletcher and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Villa's European quest was derailed in the fourth minute when Ronaldo fired in a 20-yard opener after poor defending.

Ruud van Nistelrooy made it two soon after when he picked up Paul Scholes' pass and converted from a tight angle.

Villa had two efforts disallowed late on, but luck was not on their side as Newcastle finished fifth.

With a place in Europe at stake for Villa, the onus was firmly on the home side to attack United from the start.

Yet David O'Leary's men failed to gain any kind of forward momentum and they were put firmly on the back foot by a marauding Manchester United.

Villa's defence was in tatters and the first to exploit their unease was Ronaldo.

KEY MOMENTS
4 mins: Cristiano Ronaldo fires in the opener for United
10 mins: Ruud van Nistelrooy pokes in second
75 mins: Darren Fletcher is sent off for a second bookable offence
85 mins: Ronaldo sees red for United after a second booking

Ulises de la Cruz's wayward header fell into the path of Fletcher, who picked out the Portugal winger.

Ronaldo burst forward and, with no-one closing him down, unleashed a thumping shot which flew past the poorly-positioned Thomas Sorensen at the near post.

Instead of regrouping, Villa's defence was caught out again, this time Liam Ridgewell failing to cut out Scholes' crossfield pass.

The ball dropped at the feet of Van Nistelrooy, who surged past a sprawling Sorensen and poked in United's second from a tight angle.

The visitors limited Villa to a couple of half-chances before the break, the best of which Juan Pablo Angel blasted over from close range.

After the interval, Villa upped the tempo and Angel was unlucky not to be awarded at least one penalty with Wes Brown unfairly impeding the Colombian striker in the area.

However, referee Rob Styles waved away the appeals and United almost snatched a third on the counter-attack.

Van Nistelrooy wriggled past the Villa defence and picked out Giggs, who somehow contrived to balloon the ball over the crossbar from four yards out.

Villa's Gareth Barry wasted a chance by firing straight at Tim Howard, who otherwise had one of his quieter afternoons in the United goal.

United were reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes remaining when Fletcher was sent off for a second bookable offence, and Ronaldo followed him soon after, also for a second yellow card.

Other than the two dismissals, Sir Alex Ferguson will be pleased that his team produced a solid display ahead of next Saturday's FA Cup Final with Millwall.

And while Villa boss O'Leary will be disappointed to have missed out on a Uefa Cup spot, the progress made during this season should mean the Midlands club will be challenging for Europe next May.


Aston Villa: Sorensen, De la Cruz, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Samuel, Hendrie (Whittingham 75), McCann, Hitzlsperger, Barry (Dublin 82), Angel, Crouch (Allback 57).
Subs Not Used: Delaney, Postma.

Booked: Angel, Samuel, Hendrie, Hitzlsperger.

Man Utd: Howard, Gary Neville, Brown, Silvestre, O'Shea (Djemba-Djemba 73), Ronaldo, Fletcher, Phil Neville, Giggs, Scholes, van Nistelrooy (Saha 61).
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Kleberson, Solskjaer.

Sent Off: Fletcher (75), Ronaldo (85).
Booked: Ronaldo, Fletcher, Scholes.

Attendance: 42,573.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's Steve Wilson
"Referee Rob Stiles stamped his usual mark on the game"





Barclays Premier League Table
01 February 2010 22:00
    P GD PTS
1 Chelsea 23 38 54
2 Man Utd 24 36 53
3 Arsenal 24 32 49
4 Tottenham 24 20 42

5 Liverpool 24 16 41

6 Man City 22 14 41
7 Aston Villa 23 13 40
8 Birmingham 23 -1 34
9 Everton 23 -1 32
10 Blackburn 24 -15 28
11 Fulham 23 -2 27
12 Stoke 22 -7 26
13 Sunderland 23 -10 24
14 Wigan 22 -23 22
15 West Ham 23 -9 21
16 Bolton 22 -15 21
17 Wolverhampton 23 -21 21

18 Burnley 23 -23 20
19 Hull 23 -26 20
20 Portsmouth 22 -16 15


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