Manchester United made easy work of Aston Villa at Old Trafford to win 3-1 and keep up the pressure on Manchester City and Arsenal in the league table.

United started the game very confidently, coming off the back of 6 consecutive wins in the league. They had a very strong appeal for a penalty inside the first five minutes when Fellainia s pass to Rooney was intercepted by a Claran Clark challenge on the United captain. However, the referee turned down the appeals, much to the frustration of Rooney. Manchester United continued to dominate possession of the ball although they couldna t create many chances. The breakthrough finally came in the 43rd minute when Ander Herrera received a low pass from Daley Blind, controlled it and shot past the goalkeeper.

The second half went on in a similar fashion with United dominating possession and Villa struggling to impose themselves. Ashley Young had a great chance to double the lead but his 20 yard shot went just wide off the post. Another opportunity fell to Fellaini who could only head the ball to the ground, making it easy for Guzan to parry it away. The second goal finally came in the 79th minute when Rooney showed a superb piece of skill to bring down an Angel Di Maria cross before volleying it past the goalkeeper. It would have been game over if it wasna t for Benteke scoring almost immediately after, making it 2-1 with 10 minutes to go. However, Herrera scored a second goal at the death and Manchester United held on to the lead to take all 3 points.

After the match Louis van Gaal told MUTV, a I think we could have played better today but I knew in advance that it would be very difficult, that they would organise their defence and play very defensively.a

a I am very pleased that we scored three goals because that’s not so easy against this defensive organisation.

a But as a manager you always want more, that we play with a higher ball tempo, but okay, I am very happy with the victory.a

Van Gaal had special praise for Herrera, who scored 2 goals on the night and was chiefly responsible for Uniteda s win.

a [Ander] has a very good kicking technique and he should only be more composed,a van Gaal continued. a I said to him ‘you have to control the ball before you shoot’.

a I said that to him again in yesterday’s training session, and then I kissed him at half-time because he had controlled the ball for the first time in his life and then he shot!

a But then I came after the second half to him and he said ‘without control I can do it also!’a

The manager also talked up Angel Di Maria and Wayne Rooneya s contributions to the game.

“It was beautiful and also the assist of Di Maria,” van Gaal said. “I think he was one minute on the pitch and he already has an assist. That’s fantastic.

“But after Waynea s fantastic goal, the concentration went again. You saw that a at the kick-off we didn’t have pressure on the ball and then you know what can happen.

“We also know that Benteke is very dangerous in front of the goal because he can head and shoot, and he also scored against us in the away match. It was a stupid goal against us.”

Van Gaal added: “I have heard that Southampton lost, Liverpool lost and now we have to wait for Tottenham Hotspur. But we already have a big gap.

“We can look up in the table. The next match is for the second position or the third, I think.”