Manchester United rediscovered the winning habit as Danny Welbeck’s first-half double and Tom Cleverley’s strike condemned Aston Villa to their biggest Premier League defeat of the season.
Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United
Scorers: Manchester United - Welbeck (15, 18), Cleverley (52)
David Moyes’ side were staring at a hat-trick of defeats for only the third time in the entire Premier League era.
But once Welbeck rattled in the rebound after Adnan Januzaj had headed against a post, there was never much chance of it happening enroute to a 3-0 win.
Welbeck, who had not scored in the league since the opening day of the season, added another from Antonio Valencia’s cross.
Then Cleverley who, like Welbeck, has been singled out for criticism by many supporters for his part in United’s struggles this term, belted home his first goal in a year from Wayne Rooney’s lay-off.
It was lapped up by a vocal away support, who after the opener amusingly chanted: “We are staying up.”
Whilst presiding over a relegation battle in the season after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson is evidently not going to happen for Moyes, he can only hope it is a victory that kick-starts the season.
Not that he will meet many opponents like Villa, for whom striker Christian Benteke was a major disappointment.
As Everton and Newcastle both ended long waits for wins at Old Trafford in the past fortnight, nothing could be taken for granted.
However, Villa Park has long been one of United’s favourite grounds and in the Premier League they remained unbeaten there since the famous “You’ll win nothing with kids” day in 1995.
Thankfully for Moyes, he found Villa in the most accommodating of moods.
The return of Darren Fletcher after almost 12 months out with, and virtually three years affected by, a chronic bowel condition, merely added to the party atmosphere among the away support.
Cleverley hopes breaking his goalscoring drought will start a good run of results, both for himself and his team.
“It plays on your mind when you’re a midfielder that you have to score a few goals,” said Cleverley.
“We played as a three which gave us more licence. 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. Hopefully this is the start of a good run.”
Striker Danny Welbeck scored the other two goals on a good day for manager Moyes.
The 23-year-old said: “It was a good all-round team performance and everyone got together and played good football and got the goals.
“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.”
Moyes, meanwhile, has called for more protection for Januzaj after accusing Aston Villa’s players of queuing up to kick the youngster at Villa Park.
“Just a bit,” said Moyes, when asked if he felt Januzaj was being kicked. “In every game, I don’t know how many tackles there have been on him.
“That is why I am annoyed with fourth officials and referees. He is definitely not getting protected and before you know it the boy will get a sore one.
“It is terrible what they (the officials) are allowing to go on at the moment. They (opposition players) are queuing up to see who can kick him next. (Matthew) Lowton was booked but there were that many tackles on him from different players.
“It is a recurring theme and it’s the referees’ job to sort it out. You would hope they would recognise that.
“Adnan will just get up, walk away and get on with it. That is one of his biggest attributes.”
Not surprisingly, Villa boss Paul Lambert rejected the assertion of his team being over-physical.
“My team are not a physical team,” said the Scot. “We are a young side and maybe sometimes over exuberance gets the better of them but I have never sent anyone out to kick them.”
On Fletcher, Moyes said: “If anybody returns from an illness to play professional football on this kind of stage for a club like Manchester United, it shows a lot about the boy himself,” said Moyes.
“He has had to be on his own, he has been in and out of hospital, he has had operations.
“Today was a big message to a lot of people – keep believing. If you are not well then keep believing that you can get yourself right.”