Manchester United beat Aston Villa 4-0 yesterday to record a seventh straight home win in English soccer’s Premier League and maintain a five-point advantage over Manchester City through the weekend’s matches.
United manager Alex Ferguson said the club still has much work to do in its final four games to retain the title.
“There could be twists and turns yet but the name of the game is to enjoy ourselves and play with expression like we did,” Ferguson told Sky Sports. “You can never be too confident, the name of the game is to not drop too many points.”
United, aiming for a record-extending 20th championship, tops the standings with 82 points, City has 77, with Arsenal on 64. Tottenham and Newcastle have 59 points, with Spurs ahead on goal difference, and Chelsea has 57.
Villa, not yet assured of avoiding relegation, had a chance within the opening minute as the visitors broke forward quickly. Striker Andreas Weimann collected a pass from Stephen Ireland but was unable to get any power in his shot, which was easily saved by David de Gea.
United was ahead on seven minutes from a penalty kick, awarded for a challenge by Ciaran Clark on Ashley Young. Rooney scored his 30th goal of the season as Shay Given dived the wrong way.
“I think it was a dramatic fall and maybe he overdid the fall but it was a penalty and there’s no doubt about that,” Ferguson said.
Rooney had a shot saved by Given soon after, then headed wide, before Paul Scholes hit a 20-yard volley that just missed. At the other end, Ireland curled a shot past the far post from the edge of the area.
Given made another save to stop Welbeck scoring on 33 minutes, but 10 minutes later the striker did double United’s advantage from close range.
Villa’s Clark had to be substituted after an hour following a clash of heads with Patrice Evra. His replacement Emile Heskey forced a save from De Gea soon after coming on.
Rooney got his second goal of the game after 73 minutes, with a low shot into the net as Given was caught wrongfooted. Rooney was substituted almost immediately, with Dimitar Berbatov making his first appearance since February.
United continued to push forward and Given made several more saves, while Jonny Evans headed just over the bar.
The fourth goal arrived in injury time, Nani scoring his seventh league goal this season.
“We had to put on a good performance, the onus was on us to do that at home and we did it,” United defender Rio Ferdinand told Sky Sports.
Villa remains on 35 points in 15th, four ahead of Queens Park Rangers and Wigan. Bolton on 29 points, Blackburn on 28 and Wolverhampton Wanderers on 23 are in the relegation positions.
Two days ago, Manchester City defeated Norwich 6-1 with Carlos Tevez scoring a hat-trick, Swansea beat Blackburn 3-0, West Bromwich Albion won 1-0 against QPR, while the game between Sunderland and last-place Wolves was scoreless.
Arsenal hosts Wigan today.