Last Updated: 15/04/12 6:56pm
A comfortable win for United who now put the pressure back on City in the race for the title. It may have been a dubious penalty that set them on their way, but it was one-way traffic for long spells and the hosts were full value for an emphatic win.
A decent chance there for the defender and goals could yet play a big part in the destination of the title.
United are now happy to knock the ball around, but they then quicken the tempo with Nani pulling the ball back for Berbabtov whose shot is deflected for a corner which Evans heads narrowly wide.
Carruthers earns Villa another corner and to their credit, they have certainly not given up. However, Heskey is penalised for a foul and United have a free kick.
Another United corner - their ninth - which is cleared and sub Carruthers breaks forward until Evans intercepts.
Nani earns United another corner which drops to Welbeck and the ball hits Given in the face and goes wide.
Given comes out to try and get the ball off Welbeck and the crowd claim he handled the ball outside his area - but play is allowed to go on.
Agbonlahor's shot is deflected wide for a corner which Bannan takes. Baker heads just wide but is penalised for a foul.
Bannan delievers a testing cross to the far post, but Rafael does just enough to put off Agbanlahor and United have a goalkick.
Heskey gets above Ferdinand to meet an Agbonlahor cross, but his looping header is tipped over by De Gea.
Clark is now back on the field sporting a white bandage around his head ... always reminds me of Terry Butcher!
Evra does well to hold off the challenge of Hutton and clear his lines after a long pass from Ireland.
So Villa are temporarily down to 10 men with Clark getting stitches pitchside, while Evra is now back on.
Bannan delievers a decent cross into the United box where Weimann attempts a volley, misses it and Ferdinand stands tall and clears.
Agbonlahor leaves the field rather gingerly as his side look to press from the free kick, but United clear their lines.
The half-time whistle is blown after a minute of added time with United well worth their lead. The penalty was dubious but Villa shot themselves in the foot for Welbeck's second. Given has kept Villa in it with a couple of great saves, while the visitors have created chances but look very limited in the final third.
A massive task now for the visitors to avoid what could turn into a real drubbing if they allow their heads to drop.
GOAL! Carrick runs at the Villa defence and plays in the overlapping Young. His low cross is allowed to go across he face of goal by a hesitant Villa defence and Welbeck is able to turn it in at the far post.
The visitors are enjoyng a bit of possession and United are making mistakes to encourage them further.
Rooney loses possession and Villa break but Gardner's pass to Hutton is woeful and the chance to get a cross in is lost.
Young jinks into the Villa box and pulls the ball back for Valencia whose first-time shot is so far off target it goes out for a throw on the far side.
United attack again but Rooney's pass, for once, is found wanting and Collins is able to clear downfield.
A great low cross by Valencia is met by Welbeck at the near post, but Given makes a brilliant reaction save from point-blank range.
Carrick plays a neat one-two with Rooney and goes into the box but instead of shooting he tries to set up Welbeck and Collins clears.
De Gea does well to deal with an awkward Scholes back pass and clear his lines and Vila look to press.
The trainer is on and Scholes does not look too bad. In fact, he's now back on his feet and looks able to carry on.
United force their fourth corner which Young takes and pulls it back for the unmarked Scholes whose volley screams just wide.
United have given the ball away a couple of times in midfield, but so far Vila have not capitalised.
The corner is half cleared and drops to Scholes on the edge of the box and his half-volley is saved by Given.
A strong run by Rafael sees him pull the ball back for Rooney whose drive is pushed aside by Given for a corner which is cleared.
Ireland brinsg down Welbeck and United have a free kick which is worked out wide to Rooney whose deep cross is met by Welbeck but Clark gets in a vital block.
Villa are competing well in midfield but with only one striker, they are looking lightweight in the final third.
Valencia's strong run to the edge of the Villa box sees him lay the ball to Young who looks to shoiot, but instead plays a reverse ball to Scholes whose shot is blocked.
It looked a soft penalty as there was not much contact and Young's fall was theatrical, but referee Mark Halsey had no doubts.
Carrick plays the ball through for Rooney whose rasping shot from 16 yards strikes Welbeck and Villa clear.
A very early scare for United, but it has to be said Weimann's shot was a good height for the keeper.
Villa get us under way but United quickly seize possession. However, Villa win it back and Steven Ireland puts Andreas Weimann through, but his shot is well saved by David de Gea.
A minute's silence is held for Livorno player Piermario Morosini who tragically collapsed during a match and later died on Saturday - it's impeccable.
'Once again SAF persists with Carrick, who consistently gives the ball away to the opposition. Doe't make sense, however, if United can't beat this mediocre Villa side they don't deserve to win the league, do they?' says Keith, SUPERJAMBO in Edinburgh who alos adds: 'Bring on the Hibees!'
Malcolm in Scotland says: 'As a City fan, I'm hoping United slip up before the derby at the Etihad, but I don't see it happening today. I don't see Villa having enough threat going forward to challenge United's defence, and their back four have looked vulnerable at set-pieces. Hopefully Everton can grab a result at Old Trafford next week!'
Steven Woodbine says: 'I'm glad to see Berbatov on the bench for Manchester United today. His statistics for this season are second to none in the United squad, but he seems to have been frozen out due to his likely departure at the end of the season. Maybe if given the chance he could secure the title for United. Or will Tevez be City's saviour???'
'Can't see anything other than a United win today, Villa have too many young players in their side through no fault of their own. However, United need to capitalise on this. 4-0 to United, Rooney(2), Young and Nani the scorers!' says Matt Ingram.
'Being a United fan this season my message for them will be 'BELIEVE' but next I'd like to say 'BEWARE' and improve because your rivals will build upon their failures.United lack creativity in the midfield and it was justified in the DW Stadium.So Sir Alex should invest good sum in that area of their game and it'll also bring the best out of Rooney whose sacrificing his goal glut to produce some for the team's cause.I think United should win today easily but I'm keeping my fingers crossed,' says Prisco Carvalho.
United fan Akshay from New Delhi, India says: 'Hoping to see a reaction to the defeat in midweek. It was a weird day in terms of results. United were on form, gorng strong & City were the ones wobbling and the results went in the opposite direction. Hoping for a thrashing today. 4-0 would be an enjoyable result with someone scoring a hat-trick.'
'The title i't over yet. United need to win this game if we want to win the title and with Welbeck and Rooney up front hopefully they will work well together - I think 3-1 COME ON UNITED,' says Melissa Collis.
'Man U are all about getting results when they need to. Today is one of those games, I think the goals will fly in today before a memorable clash with City where they can get revenge for the game at Old Trafford,' says Mike Burton.
Amin Khan says: 'Very happy to see Scholesy back in the centre. I think we need him to control the midfield and get Young and Valencia pushing forward which they couldn't do against Wigan on Wednesday.'
'A must win match for united to win the league can't afford another shock defeat if they do lose the title will all go down to the derby at the end of the month which city will probably hammer us agen with tevez back,' says United fan Shane Mortimer.
Stuart Marshall says: 'As a beloved United fan some of the performances of late have been shocking that's not to mention the Wigan defeat. Home v Villa we should be looking to win comfortably but i would take a 1-0 right now with the noisy neighbours awake again it's time to show why we are 19 times champions squeaky bum time come on you reds!'
'A bit worried about this one. Given always has a stormer against United and Villa will be wanting to play well for Captain Stan. Young is also yet to convince me and Welbeck seems to have sold his shooting boots. Will be tricky, but i'm going with a Villa 1-2 United win with Agbonlahor, Rooney and Nani as a sub to score,' says Ben in North Wales.
'As a Birmingham City fan I'm going for a 4-0 united win to bounce back from defeat at Wigan. I think they'll look a much stronger team with Paul scholes in the side. I can see them knocking a few past given today,' says Gabriel Sutton.
United fan Anthony Lau from Cardiff says: 'I'm a massive Man Utd fan - but I fear a devastaing result for us today and it could cost us the title.'
'Great line up by Big Eck - sad not to see N'zogbia make the starting eleven good to see Clark back to fitness though! Hoping Collins and Baker can shut out Rooney then we have a chance, I hope we can be the team to take the title chase to the wire,' says Villa fan Harry Peate.
Chris Dukerley in Pittsburgh, USA says: 'The title is not over yet. United's centre midfield is exposed. Welbeck, and Chicharito are inconsistent. Phil Jones is massively overrated, he has no positional sense whatsoever. United could get nervous if they do not score early, and their minds will definitely be focused on the City game. They cannot afford to go in to that game knowing that a City win will take them back to the top.United are in this position because City have imploded, not because United are great. Fergie's dealings in the transfer market are shameful and will stop United winning today and ultimately the league. 2-2 draw today.'
'Poor performance on Wednesday showing that we need a midfielder in the summer and with city winning we need to up our game today,' says Ryan.
The line-ups are as follows - Man Utd: De Gea, Rafael Da Silva, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Young, Rooney, Welbeck. Subs: Amos, Jones, Berbatov, Giggs, Hernandez, Nani, Cleverley. Aston Villa: Given, Hutton, Collins, Baker, Lichaj, Bannan, Ireland, Clark, Gardner, Weimann, Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, N'Zogbia, Delfouneso, Heskey, Cuellar, Johnson, Carruthers. Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)
Paul Scholes returns to the Manchester United starting line-up for this afternoon's Premier League encounter with Aston Villa at Old Trafford. Scholes' absence in midweek was cited as one of the major reasons for United's shock defeat at Wigan, which provided Manchester City with the opportunity to cut the gap to two points yesterday. Rafael and Danny Welbeck are also recalled, whilst Ciaran Clark and Gary Gardner are named by Villa boss Alex McLeish, whose side are still not clear of relegation trouble.
Our colleagues at Sky Bet make United heavy 1/5 favourites, with the draw 11/2 and Villa 12/1. Wayne Rooney is a 9/4 favourite to get the first goal with Danny Welbeck 4/1, while Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann are both 14/1 shots for Villa.
Good afternoon and welcome to our coverage of this afternoon's Premier League clash between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford. The pressure is on United after their shock midweek defeat to Wigan, while Manchester City's impressive 6-1 win at Norwich yesterday reduced the gap to just two points in what promises to be a fascinating title battle. Team line-ups and news to follow but, as always, we welcome your views so send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll publish the best ones.