Manchester United 3-1 Aston Villa: Brace from Ander Herrera powers Red Devils

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Manchester United pulled past its noisy neighbors, at least for two days, with a 3-1 defeat of visiting Aston Villa on Saturday at Old Trafford.

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Ander Herrera scored a pair of goals and Wayne Rooney added a startling volley to offset a Christian Benteke goal, and United leapt third in the table, a point behind No. 2 Arsenal and a point ahead of Manchester City, which plays Monday at Crystal Palace.

Villa remains in 16th, just three points ahead of the drop zone.

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Rooney went down in the fifth minute under pressure on his shoulder, and protested loudly for a penalty to no avail.

United were all over Villa, living in the final third and stymied by blocked shots and deflected attempts.

Brad Guzan didn’t see too many early shots get to him, but when he did he was big, flying to push a Marcos Rojo shot just over the bar in the 24th minute.

Ander Herrera put the inevitable past Guzan off a neat combination play that began with Ashley Young laying off for an overlapping Daley Blind, who took the ball to the end line before cutting it back for Herrera. His second touch was a left-footed shot into the goal.

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Rooney made it 2-0 in the 79th minute, setting up a volley for himself off Angel Di Maria’s cross and unloading a shot past Guzan (who had no chance whatsoever).

But Villa picked up a corner straightaway, and Benteke hit a low ball under United keeper De Gea, who should’ve done better in making a rare error.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Blind, Carrick, Herrera, Mata, Fellaini (Falcao, 77′), Young (Di Maria, 70′), Rooney.

Goals: Herrera 2 (44′, 90′), Rooney (79′)

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton (Bacuna, 46′), Okore, Clark, Lowton, Delph, Sanchez, N’Zogbia (Baker, 61′), Weimann (Cole, 77′), Agbonlahor, Benteke.

Goal: Benteke (80′)