Man Utd 1-0 Aston Villa: Marcus Rashford winner confirms Villans' relegation
By Lyall Thomas
Last Updated: 17/04/16 7:18am
Aston Villa's relegation to the Championship has been confirmed after a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Marcus Rashford's seventh goal of the season, turning in Antonio Valencia's low cross on 32 minutes, proved the winner in Villa's 24th defeat of the season, which leaves them an insurmountable 15 points short of safety with four games left.
The West Midlands club end their 28-year stay in the top-flight with one of the poorest campaigns from any Premier League side - and they went out with a wimper.
Substitute Rudy Gestede went closest late on when he hit the post from a corner but United should have scored more, with Memphis Depay hitting the post in stoppage time, as Wayne Rooney made his first start in over two months after injury.
Villa's fate has appeared a foregone conclusion for some time, with the club sitting bottom of the division since November 2 and winning just three games all season, but that will do little to soften the blow to one of England's biggest clubs.
With victory, meanwhile, United move to within a point of the Champions League spots, with fourth-placed rivals Manchester City playing Chelsea on Saturday Night Football on Sky Sports 1HD, and they deserved their win.
The hosts were buoyed by the return of Rooney, making his first start since February 13 as one of five changes to the side that won at West Ham in midweek, with boss Louis van Gaal mindful of another game against Crystal Palace on Wednesday and an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley next weekend.
Rooney was lively and influential from the start and his side bossed the opening 20 minutes, with Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling both heading wide from corners before Juan Mata danced into the area and should have found the target from 12 yards.
At the other end, Jordan Ayew and Kieran Richardson smashed speculative efforts over the bar from distance as Villa struggled to cope with United's movement, and Valencia found space on the right to pick out Rashford for a well-taken opener.
Villa had a debatable case for a penalty as Ayew was brought down in the box, but got nothing, and the forward continued to be a rare live-wire for the away side, almost finding the net on the stroke of half-time when a close-range shot was blocked by Smalling.
United then had their own shout for a penalty when Rashford was brought down by Alan Hutton, but got nothing either, before the young striker got up and was put through by Mata to flash a shot wide of the near post.
Depay and Daley Blind flashed excellent crosses in front of the Villa goal as United hunted for a second, but they were fortunate not to draw the game after Gestede emerged from the bench to cause problems.
The goal was gaping as the forward tried to turn home Ayew's cut back, but his shot was blocked, before he volleyed against the upright with six minutes left.
But Villa had to win to have any hope of embarking on a great escape and, as they have done for most of the season, they fell short of what is required to win a Premier League football match.
Soccer Saturday verdict - Charlie Nicholas
"I thought it was a stroll in the park for Manchester United. They didn't pass it quick enough, didn't get the ball into Rashford early enough. Rooney came back and enjoyed pinging the ball about but never really looked a threat in front of goal. For the first 20-25 minutes he did not really link up with Rashford and it was all a bit slow and deliberate. But, once he started spraying the balls around, you could see he was starting to enjoy it. He comfortably felt his way back into the game. The fourth spot is vital for Manchester United and I thought they could have filled their boots today but they just strolled through the game.
"Villa looked like a team who need the season to end now, understandably so. They had a little bit of fight, when Gestede came on. He hit the post and he should have scored just before that. Ayew up front gave United a bit of work. Looking at the group they have that might be saleable, I think Ayew would be an asset, but they have got big decisions to make defensively. They have got a lot to do in a short space of time"
Man Utd: De Gea (7); Valencia (7), Smalling (7), Blind (7), Rojo (6); Schneiderlin (6), Fellaini (6), Mata (8), Rooney (8), Depay (7); Rashford (7)
Subs used: Martial (6), Lingard (6), Fosu-Mensah (6)
Aston Villa: Guzan (6); Hutton (6), Lescott (6), Clark (6), Cissokho (6); Bacuna (5), Westwood (5), Gana (7); Richardson (6), Ayew (7), Sinclair (5)
Subs used: Gestede (7)
Man of the Match: Wayne Rooney