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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 December 2005, 14:38 GMT
Aston Villa 0-2 Man Utd
Darren Fletcher and Ruud van Nistelrooy
Manchester United moved to within six points of Premiership pace-setters Chelsea with an emphatic victory against Aston Villa.

Ruud van Nistelrooy's close-range finish put United ahead after nine minutes from Darren Fletcher's pass.

Wayne Rooney doubled United's lead five minutes after the interval following good work by Park Ji-Sung.

Villa's only serious threat to United's supremacy was a shot from Milan Baros that struck the bar.

United lost Alan Smith through illness prior to kick-off, with Park being drafted in.

And the South Korean almost made an instant impact when he raced on to Rooney's pass after seven minutes, but his shot hit the inside of an upright and bounced to safety.

But United were in front two minutes later when Fletcher's pass cut through the Villa defence and Van Nistelrooy lifted a cool finish over goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen as he raced out.

Villa were being outclassed, and Van Nistelrooy almost added a spectacular second after 33 minutes when Sorensen had to scramble to turn a bicycle kick over the top.

Villa boss David O'Leary made a change at half-time in an attempt to provide problems for United, who had barely broken sweat in defence, sending on Juan Pablo Angel for James Milner.

But it was United who tightened their grip on the game five minutes after the interval, the busy Park sending Rooney through for a typical emphatic strike past Sorensen.

And Ryan Giggs should have extended their lead when he was sent clear by Rooney, but he fired high over the bar from an angle.

Villa finally gave Edwin van der Sar an anxious moment after 58 minutes, when Gareth Barry's shot on the turn was only inches off target.

Baros came even closer when he rattled the bar with Van der Sar beaten as Villa attempted an unlikely comeback.

United almost rounded off their victory in the final seconds when substitute Cristiano Ronaldo, on for Giggs, forced Sorensen into a fine save before Van Nistelrooy was denied by some desperate defending.

Ronaldo then produced some brilliant footwork and a spectacular cross, only for Van Nistelrooy to head wide.


  • Aston Villa manager David O'Leary: "We were outclassed by a team with world-class players.

    "We are going to have to play better than that in the weeks ahead, but we won't be playing sides of Manchester United's quality every week.

    "We came into the game on the back of some really good league form and we have got to pick that back up again.

    "We want to climb up the league table as best we can. I believe we can, but it's going to be hard and we have to prove we can go out and do it."

  • Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "I thought Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy were fantastic. They are both great players and great players find ways to make a combination and they are combining well now.

    "The players have responded well to going out of the Champions League. You can either wither and die or get off your backsides and get on the pitch and do something about it, which they have.

    "The second goal against Wigan in midweek was very important for us because it brought an expansion and confidence to our game.

    "We have just got to keep winning our matches and doing our job, and hope that if Chelsea slip up we are closest to them to take advantage."


    Aston Villa: Sorensen, Delaney, Hughes, Ridgewell, Bouma, Milner, Bakke, Davis, McCann, Barry, Baros. Subs: Hendrie, Angel, Taylor, De la Cruz, Moore.

    Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, O'Shea, Fletcher, Park, Scholes, Giggs, van Nistelrooy, Rooney. Subs: Howard, Ronaldo, Bardsley, Jones, Rossi.

    Referee: M Dean (Wirral)




  • WATCH AND LISTEN
    Interview: Aston Villa manager David O'Leary


    Interview: Manchester United's Carlos Queiroz


    Interview: Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney



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