Striker Rooney took his tally to six goals for the season with his first-half double
By Mandeep Sanghera
Wayne Rooney scored twice to help Manchester United maintain their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a win over Aston Villa.
Rooney opened the scoring emphatically within a minute with a powerful strike that followed sublime control.
He then sidefooted home an inviting Nani cross on the stoke of half-time.
Darren Bent slotted in a Stewart Downing cross to give Villa hope but that was ended when defender Nemanja Vidic thumped in United's third.
United, like Rooney, have been accused of not being at their best this season but there could be no such criticisms of either in this match as the Red Devils equalled a club record run of 29 games unbeaten in the Premier League.
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Although the Midlanders, who had beaten United 1-0 at Old Trafford last season, briefly rallied after Bent's goal, they were comprehensively brushed aside.
Rooney had scored only two times in the league ahead of the game and, despite worries over the his lack of goals, his manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he was satisfied with the striker's overall contribution.
Ferguson kept faith in Rooney, even though Javier Hernandez had scored two goals in as many games to stake a claim for a first-team spot, and his decision was justified after only 54 seconds.
United keeper Edwin van der Sar was the unlikely provider as his quickly taken free-kick found Rooney, who had got ahead of last defender Richard Dunne, and the forward brilliantly controlled a ball coming from over his shoulder before powering a shot past Brad Friedel.
The goal gave the Old Trafford side an early grip on the game and they rarely relinquished their stranglehold as they passed with poise and defended with discipline.
Villa struggled to find a way through United and a lack of accuracy to their passing only compounded their frustrations, with Bent mistiming an effort during a rare opening for them.
The home side were professionally going about their business and were denied a spot-kick when Dunne clumsily barged Nani off the the ball.
It was a challenge very similar to Rafael Da Silva's on Blackpool's Luke Varney when United also escaped giving away a penalty in a recent game.
United did not dwell on the decision and Nani had a left-foot piledriver fended wide by Friedel, who is now the oldest player in Villa's history at 39 years and 259 days.
Friedel again had to save as he parried a Patrice Evra shot before gathering the ball after the left-back had been put through by Ryan Giggs.
Giggs was voted United's greatest player in a recent poll and even at 37 his closing down of the opposition and tracking back was an example to his team-mates.
The more glamorous qualities usually associated with him are skill and pace and he used those to race on to a ball across him and dummy a defender before having a right-foot shot saved.
United's threat eventually brought them a goal when Rooney ran on to Nani's delicious inswinging cross to slot in at the far post.
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Ferguson's side may have been in control but they have squandered points from such positions previously this season and, when an unmarked Bent slotted in after 58 minutes, United's boss had reason for concern as the visitors showed signs of launching a comeback.
However, those fears for the Red Devils were quickly dispelled as Rooney laid the ball off to centre-back Nemanja Vidic and he drove in a curling shot from just inside the area.
A curling Ashley Young shot hit the crossbar with Van der Sar beaten as Villa tried to work their way back into the game.
But, that aside, it was United who carried the greater threat - Berbatov blazed high and Friedel excellently kept efforts from Nani and Rooney at bay as the Old Trafford outfit secured a 12th home win in 13 league games so far this season.
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