Class Act

Last updated : 22 October 2007 By Ed
David Pleat in the Guardian

Manchester United gave a massive statement of intent in this tricky away fixture. With a positive attacking philosophy and shorn of a defensive midfielder - John O'Shea, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves were all absent - they pressed forward with an incisiveness that punctured Aston Villa's half and hearts.

In Moscow for England Rooney had worked prodigiously but erratically as he dropped too deep and became divorced from his partner, Michael Owen. Early on, when in unison, he scored England's solitary goal. Here, deployed nearer the opponents' goal, his work in tandem with the Argentinian Carlos Tevez was of the highest quality.

With the expected top sides - United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal - now getting into a pattern of winning comfortably, the Premier League title race is going to be won or lost on their head-to-head games. What we have to hope is that when the likes of Arsenal and United lock horns they will both display the same vibrancy they are currently showing against the other competitors.

Rooney, often deployed in European games on the wide left for United, looks unhappy there. Playing centrally and coming deep he can be effective but the end product is diminished. Here it was entrancing and productive. The effervescent Scouser, predicted to form a successful front partnership with the squat, vibrant Tevez by his confident manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was a revelation.

The two played close together, giving Villa's centre-backs a tough afternoon. They forced Olof Mellberg and Wilfred Bouma to tuck in and Gardner and Young deep to help. Villa's Martin Laursen, outstanding so far this season, tended to get too tight and got turned too easily and Zat Knight reverted to one of his lazy defensive displays, not getting close enough when marking near the edge of his box.

Paul Scholes and Anderson passed early and easily, making it difficult for Nigel Reo-Coker and Gareth Barry to get tight. Meanwhile Nani and Ryan Giggs were well supported from behind by Patrice Evra and Wes Brown, forcing Gardner deep. This took the attacking support away from Luke Moore and Agbonlahor, Villa's spearhead.

Tevez is finding his feet. He made the second for Rooney's slide-rule shot and buzzed around the Villa box like an angry bee. Mellberg and Laursen, the experienced Scandinavian duo, and Knight were particularly unhinged as the combination play of Rooney and Tevez gave all neutrals a glow.