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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 January, 2005, 16:55 GMT
Man Utd 3-1 Aston Villa
Manchester United's Darren Fletcher (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo celebrate
Two goals in a minute in the second half earned Manchester United victory over Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

Louis Saha headed over from point-blank range but United did make the most of their early dominance when Saha fed Cristiano Ronaldo to coolly slot home.

Wayne Rooney wasted a chance to double the lead before Gareth Barry equalised with a fabulous 20-yard strike.

But Rooney crossed for Saha to neatly finish before Paul Scholes wrapped up the points with a close-range header.

United were boosted by the returns of Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand at the back and with Rooney and Ronaldo in the mood from the start it looked as though the Villa defence would be in for a tough time.

The first real chance fell to Saha via a wonderful approach from the twinkle-toed Ronaldo and Rooney's fabulous left-foot cross, but the Frenchman could only head over from six yards.

Moments later the hosts got a deserved breakthrough when Saha cleverly slipped Ronaldo the ball and the Portuguese teenager rifled past Thomas Sorensen from the edge of the box.

Rooney forced Sorensen to save low down as United threatened to run riot but Villa soon created an opening themselves, Nolberto Solano hitting a rocket from 25 yards that Roy Carroll parried away.

After Saha had run the length of the pitch to shoot tamely at Sorensen, Villa countered and Barry's sublime cross was headed straight at Carroll from point-blank range by Juan Pablo Angel.

The game settled down thereafter with Villa's midfield getting to grips with Roy Keane and Scholes, though Liam Ridgewell was cautioned for a flare-up with Ronaldo near the Villa byline.

Olof Mellberg had to be alert just before the break to stop the lively Saha from testing Sorensen again, the Swede's well-timed interception averting the danger.

United could have doubled their advantage immediately after the restart when Scholes played Rooney clean through, but the youngster's touch was terrible and the chance went begging.

They nearly paid for Rooney's wastefulness when Thomas Hitzlsperger's long-range drive was saved by Carroll, but United's lead did not last much longer.

Barry played a lovely one-two with Solano on the edge of the United box and rammed a left-foot shot into the far corner past Carroll's despairing dive.

United tried to hit back but Quinton Fortune's header was plucked out of the air by Sorensen and Ronaldo's cross fell agonisingly behind the onrushing Rooney six yards from goal.

But inside a minute United struck twice and finished the game as a contest, Rooney and Ronaldo the architechts of their success.

Rooney scampered away down the right and crossed for Saha to divert the ball goalwards, a deflection off Ridgewell helping the ball past a wrong-footed Sorensen.

Moments later Ronaldo's trickery earned him an opening and his stinging drive was parried into the air by Sorensen for Scholes to nod into an empty net.

Villa did have a chance to halve the deficit when Carroll saved Barry's shot only for Luke Moore to blaze over with the goal gaping.


Man Utd: Carroll, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze, Fletcher (Fortune 45), Scholes (O'Shea 73), Keane, Ronaldo, Rooney (Giggs 73), Saha.
Subs Not Used: Howard, Brown.

Booked: Keane, Ronaldo.

Goals: Ronaldo 8, Saha 69, Scholes 70.

Aston Villa: Sorensen, Delaney (De la Cruz 11), Ridgewell, Mellberg, Samuel, Solano (Luke Moore 74), Davis, Berson (Hitzlsperger 45), Barry, Hendrie, Angel.
Subs Not Used: Postma, Cole.

Booked: Berson, Ridgewell, Hendrie, Samuel, Solano.

Goals: Barry 53.

Att: 67,859

Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Aston Villa boss David O'Leary


Interview: Manchester striker Louis Saha




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