LONDON – Wayne Rooney inspired Manchester United to come from behind and beat Aston Villa 4-1 on Saturday, March 29 in a game marked by fresh protests against United manager David Moyes.
A small airplane towing an anti-Moyes banner flew over Old Trafford shortly after kick-off and the under-fire former Everton manager then saw his side fall behind to an Ashley Westwood free-kick.
However, Rooney scored twice before half-time, with Juan Mata and Javier Hernandez adding further goals as the under-performing champions provisionally moved to within 9 points of the Premier League’s top 4.
United had been dealt a humbling 3-0 defeat by Manchester City on Tuesday, and Rooney told BT Sport: “Today was a big game for us after midweek.
“We had to respond and it was difficult. We had a slow start, going behind, but we came through it and got the win and deserved it. It was a good win for us.”
There were fewer than two minutes on the clock when the plane, chartered by a group of disgruntled fans, made its appearance, trailing a banner that read: ‘WRONG ONE – MOYES OUT’.
It was a response to the pro-Moyes ‘THE CHOSEN ONE’ banner that has adorned the Stretford End since the beginning of the season, but the man himself received a warm reception when he emerged before kick-off.
Applause turned to silence, though, in the 13th minute when Westwood curled a delicate free kick over the United wall and inside the left-hand post to put Villa ahead.
Mata’s first United goal
Villa center-back Ciaran Clark then put a free header over, but Rooney equalized in the 20th minute when he exploited slack marking to convert Shinji Kagawa’s left-wing cross with a deft glancing header.
The England striker completed the turnaround shortly before half-time, burying a penalty into the bottom right corner after Mata had been cleaned out by Leandro Bacuna.
Villa striker Christian Benteke gave United two big scares early in the second half, miskicking right in front of goal and then heading just over, but Mata’s 57th-minute strike gave the hosts breathing space.
After Marouane Fellaini tried to bundle his way through in the Villa area, the ball popped out to Mata, who thrashed home right-footed to claim his first United goal since his club-record £37.1 million ($61.2 million, 44.8 million euros) move from Chelsea in January.
Substitute Hernandez made it 4-1 in injury time, touching home an Adnan Januzaj cross to complete an encouraging display ahead of United’s midweek Champions League date with Bayern Munich.
Later on Saturday, leaders Chelsea can provisionally extend their advantage over second-place Liverpool to 4 points by winning at fourth-bottom Crystal Palace.
Third-place Manchester City will look to maintain the pressure on Jose Mourinho’s side when they travel to fourth-placed Arsenal, who are in danger of being eliminated from the title race.
At the other end of the table, second-from-bottom Cardiff City visit fellow relegation contenders West Bromwich Albion hoping to bridge the 3-point gap that separates them from the Midlands club.
Elsewhere, Swansea City host Norwich City, Hull City travel to Stoke City, and Southampton tackle Newcastle United. – Rappler.com