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Manchester United 3 - 1 Aston Villa

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Manchester United maintained their six-point lead at the Premiership summit in impressive style.

Ji-Sung Park's low drive opened the scoring early on and Michael Carrick's first goal for United doubled the advantage two minutes later.

Carrick turned creator to cross for Cristiano Ronaldo to head home at the far post 10 minutes before half-time.

Gabriel Agbonlahor pulled a goal back for Villa from close range after 51 minutes, but United were a class apart.

Henrik Larsson was handed his first Premiership start after a goalscoring debut in the FA Cup against Villa.

And he almost hit the target after four minutes, meeting Gary Neville's cross perfectly, only for Villa keeper Thomas Sorensen to save his header diving low to his right.

United did not have to wait long for the opener, however, and it came after 11 minutes.

Park scored with a right-foot finish after Villa were troubled by another Neville cross and Gary Cahill presented the South Korean with his opportunity.

And United added a second two minutes later, when Park set up Carrick for another low drive that Sorensen touched but could not save.

United were out of sight 11 minutes before half-time when a calamitous passage of defending by Villa was deservedly punished.

The Premiership leaders made a mess of a short corner, but Gavin McCann presented the ball to Park, who fed Carrick and his perfect cross was headed in at the far post by Ronaldo.

Milan Baros had battled gamely up front, and he offered Villa the slenderest of lifelines after 51 minutes with a strong run and cross that left youngster Agbonlahor with a simple finish from three yards.

United continued to dominate, and almost added a fourth after 67 minutes through Louis Saha, who had replaced the tiring Park.

Neville unlocked Villa's defence with another right-wing raid, and when Sorensen failed to hold his cross, it took a desperate goal-line block by Cahill to deny the France striker.

United were threatening to score with every attack, Sorensen saving brilliantly from Larsson and the unlucky Wayne Rooney striking the bar with a curling 20-yard effort.

Rooney's frustration at failing to hit the target had grown, and he was rightly shown a yellow card by referee Howard Webb for a senseless lunge at Baros.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson:
"There is great determination and a marvellous team spirit in this side.

"There are 15 games to go and we are in a very good position. We played some good football and it was a period we capitalised on - sometimes you don't do that, but we managed to get a three-goal lead by half-time.

"We have got Arsenal next week, and with Paul Scholes back it was a chance to give Ryan Giggs a break and give Ji-Sung Park an hour and a bit as he gets more games under his belt."

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill:
"It is a long, long time without a win now, but I don't think I was ever fooled by our early position and I don't think anyone around the football club was.

"We did fine in terms of getting points and results early on, but they have dried up so we have got to do something about it.

"Manchester United are a very fine side. We have got a lot of work to do, but we have known that for a long time."

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick (O'Shea 80), Scholes, Park (Saha 65), Rooney, Larsson (Solskjaer 80).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Giggs.

Booked: Rooney.

Goals: Park 11, Carrick 13, Ronaldo 35.

Aston Villa: Sorensen, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Cahill, Bouma (Samuel 46), Hughes (Davis 46), McCann, Osbourne, Barry, Agbonlahor, Baros.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Hendrie, Angel.

Booked: Barry.

Goals: Agbonlahor 52.

Att: 76,073

Ref: H Webb (S Yorkshire).
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Great to see Michael Carrick score his very first goal for United. Ji-Sung Park also chipped in with a good effort thru the match and was rewarded with a goal. Goal #3 was scored by .... who else? Cristiano Ronaldo with a fine header. All-in-all, a good effort marred only the lack of a clean sheet.
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