Wayne Rooney scores twice as Man U beats Aston Villa 4-1
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, left, forces a shot past Aston Villa's Leandro Bacuna during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday March 29, 2014. (AP/Jon Super)
The Associated Press
Published Saturday, March 29, 2014 12:10PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 29, 2014 1:02PM EDT
MANCHESTER, England -- Wayne Rooney scored twice as Manchester United came from behind to beat Aston Villa 4-1 in the Premier League on Saturday as fans came out in support of struggling manager David Moyes at Old Trafford.
It looked like being another miserable day for Moyes when Ashley Westwood put Villa in front from a 13th-minute free kick. But Rooney headed United level seven minutes later, and the striker netted his 16th of the season for the struggling champions from the penalty spot before halftime.
The lead was extended in the 57th when Juan Mata scored his first United goal since joining from Chelsea in January for 37.1 million pounds (then $61 million), and substitute Javier Hernandez wrapped up the victory in stoppage time.
"We had to respond and it was difficult," Rooney told BT Sport television. "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.
"We know the support the manager has got from the players and from the fans and that's what matters. The support he got from the fans was incredible again today."
United won't have long to savour the victory as a far sterner test comes up at Old Trafford on Tuesday with the visit of European champion Bayern Munich.
Winning the Champions League is United's only realistic hope of returning to the competition next season as it is in seventh place -- far from the four qualification spots.
United maintains that Moyes' future is not under threat during the uneasy transition following 26 years under Alex Ferguson.
The start of the game had fans looking to the sky when a much-publicized plane flew overhead with a banner emblazoned with "Wrong One - Moyes Out." Just one person, who said he is a United fan, has claimed responsibility for the stunt with no supporters' groups backing the protest.
In fact, fans inside the ground were supportive from the start for Moyes despite back-to-back league losses at home to Liverpool and Manchester City, booing as the plane flew overhead.
That faith was tested when Westwood put Villa in front. Rafael da Silva barged over Villa striker Christian Benteke on the edge of the box to earn a booking and Westwood responded by sending a dipping free kick over the wall and beyond stretching goalkeeper David de Gea.
The home fans went silent. The only noise heard inside the ground came from the plane, which was still buzzing around above the stadium, and the Villa fans, who proclaimed Moyes as a "football genius."
But Rooney sparked the comeback, finding space in the box and getting on the end of Shinji Kagawa's pinpoint cross to head past Brad Guzan.
The England striker would have had a second soon after had it not been for a last-ditch tackle from Ciaran Clark and some impressing defending from Ron Vlaar.
United had increased the pressure on the away side, but the hosts still lacked quality and imagination in the final third. Too often it was a case of hit and hope for Moyes men.
The game seemed destined for a halftime stalemate before Mata was brought down in the Villa box by Leandro Bacuna and Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot. Rooney held his nerve to power the ball to Guzan's left and the home crowd started to relax.
At the start of the second half, substitute Michael Carrick stuck his boot in to deny Villa striker Christian Benteke after the Belgium striker completely missed the ball going for a volley. Benteke missed another chance soon after, heading over from six yards while unmarked.
But then Buttner's header found Marouane Fellaini in the Villa box and he clumsily worked the ball to Mata, who struck past Guzan.
The sense of relief was clear on Moyes' face.
Benteke missed yet another easy chance, this time shooting wide from close range, again unmarked, before Hernandez made no such mistake in turning home fellow substitute Adnan Januzaj's cross at the end.
"Of course at times we haven't done as well as we'd like, and we didn't start the game well today," Moyes said. "But the crowd were brilliant the way they got behind the team."