Man United beats Villa 3-0 to halt league slump
BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) Danny Welbeck's double steered Manchester United to a 3-0 victory at Aston Villa on Sunday to halt a four-game winless run in the Premier League.
The pressure eased on manager David Moyes as Welbeck sidefooted in the opener in the 15th minute and the striker found the target again inside three minutes.
"It was a good all-round team performance and everyone got together and played good football and got the goals," Welbeck told broadcaster Sky Sports. "Good strikers finish and that's where I want to play - up top, but I'm happy to play in the team whether on the left or right."
In a vibrant United display, Tom Cleverley netted his first goal of the season seven minutes into the second half as the champions avoided a third straight league loss.
The victory pushed United up to eighth place, 10 points behind leader Arsenal.
It was lapped up by a vocal away support, who chanted: "We are staying up."
Villa Park is one of the most accommodating grounds for United, which is unbeaten there since 1995.
The visitors helped themselves with their speed and intensity, a sharp improvement on grim recent performances. Villa was unable to match the tempo and left far too many open spaces for United players to flood into.
Antonio Valencia gave defender Antonio Luna a miserable time, and Rafael was able to surge to the byline and send over a superb cross that was met perfectly by Adnan Januzaj.
The teenager's header flashed past goalkeeper Brad Guzan, and when it came bouncing back off a post, Welbeck was racing in to apply a first-time finish to the rebound to put United in front.
Within three minutes, the visitors had struck again.
This time Valencia provided the opportunity, with Welbeck sliding between defenders to touch home.
It was the perfect way for United to answer their critics, and Welbeck to silence a few of his.
The England striker reveled in the responsibility of leading the attacking line as Robin van Persie starts his month on the sidelines, with Wayne Rooney dropping deep.
Rooney did skim the outside of a post after Valencia had opted to pass rather than shoot after driving deep into the area.
Welbeck spurned a glorious chance to claim his first hat-trick from a very similar position after Valencia had once again proved too hot to handle.
It was an all-too-familiar story for Villa, for whom Christian Benteke was a shadow of the striker who terrorized defenses throughout last season.
Early in the second half, Rooney powered forward and slipped a pass to Cleverley, who drove home his first Premier League goal in almost a year.
"It plays on your mind when you're a midfielder that you have to score a few goals," Cleverley told Sky Sports. "We played as a three, which gave us more license. A year of not scoring came out in my celebration.
"I think I played quite well and kept the ball and kept us ticking at a high tempo. I want to kick on from here now and so does the team."
After the goal, Cleverley was throwing himself in front of Andreas Weimann's shot as United attempted to preserve their healthy advantage, a sign in itself of the determination in the away ranks to right the wrongs of a dreadful few weeks.
The return of United midfielder Darren Fletcher from the bench after almost 12 months out due to a chronic bowel condition merely added to the party atmosphere among the away support.
United goalkeeper David De Gea denied Karim El Ahmadi after Welbeck had earlier floated a chip onto the roof of Guzan's goal but by then, thousands of Villa fans had already started to head for the exits.
Updated December 15, 2013