Crisis? What crisis? Coming off back-to-back Premier League losses, Manchester United's troubles have taken up many a column inch over the past week. But David Moyes and company put their struggles behind them at Villa Park, demolishing Aston Villa thanks to an early brace from Danny Welbeck and a second-half strike from Tom Cleverley.
For a while it looked as though United's domestic woes might continue. Villa began on the front foot, putting their guests' back line under serious pressure and threatening to find a way past David de Gea. Marc Albrighton was particularly lively, forcing two saves early on, and it didn't look as though Phil ones and Jonny Evans had any sort of answer to the power of Christian Benteke either.
United's solution was to attack. Villa's early dominance turned out to be the calm before the storm. The defending champions poured forward, committing both fullbacks up the pitch in an attempt to turn the match around, and that strategy paid immediate dividends. Rafael wasn't being tracked effectively by Gabby Agbonlahor, and the Brazilian can only be given so much space before he punishes a team.
In this case, it was a 16th-minute cross from the byline that did Villa in. Adnan Januzaj met the delivery on the penalty spot, directing a powerful header past Brad Guzan but off the base of the post. Fortunately for the visitors, Welbeck was the first to react, powering home the rebound to give United a 1-0 lead.
Welbeck wasn't done there either. Having grabbed the all-important first goal, he then started and finished the second just two minutes later, picking out Antonio Valencia's run on the right flank and rushing onto the winger's low cross (taking the ball off Januzaj's boot in the process). His finish was magnificent, squeezed into the corner of post and bar, and it more or less ended any doubt as to the game's ultimate outcome.
United kept pushing forward, and both Welbeck and Wayne Rooney had shots go inches wide of Guzan's right post with the goalkeeper well beaten. The visitors would eventually get their third just after halftime, when Rooney pushed forward and picked out the run of Cleverley, who slotted past Guzan with worrisome ease to complete the scoring.
Welcome news for the visiting fans arrived in the 70th minute when long-term absentee Darren Fletcher replaced Ryan Giggs in the Manchester United midfield, his presence greeted with more enthusiasm (from both sets of fans) than that of Ashley Young.
Aston Villa starting lineup (4-3-3): Brad Guzan; Antonio Luna, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker, Matthew Lowton; Yacouba Sylla , Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi; Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke , Marc Albrighton.
Manchester United starting lineup (4-4-2): David de Gea; Patrice Evra, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Rafael; Adnan Januzaj (Ashley Young 70'), Ryan Giggs , Tom Cleverley, Antonio Valencia; Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney (Wilfried Zaha 84').
Goals: Welbeck 16' 18', Cleverley 51'.