Date: 25th December 2006 at 1:32pm
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Manchester United thrashed Aston Villa with 30 minutes of really good football after a thoroughly frustrating first half.

Sir Alex surprisingly named Park Ji-sung in the starting line-up and the little Korean did not disappoint, unlike the team.

Of course, Park’s performance was good only in the light of his lengthy absence, taken as an absolute he was quite ineffective. Just like the team as the Reds failed to really test Kiraly in the Villa goal.

The first serious chance of the game fell to Martin O’Neill’s side but the ball hit the post after a dangerous corner and we were not so unlucky to have it deflected into the net. United’s first really concerted attack resulted in an opening but Park failed to hit the ball perfectly from 15 yards so it was deflected for a corner.

Really, that was it in the first half as the Reds were struggling to create chances in the loathed 4-3-3 formation, with Giggs clearly not finding his place. Saha always got the ball in overcrowded areas and Ronaldo’s runs failed to deliver any kind of end product.

I’d not say a lot had changed in the second half. United were still light years behind the football we’ve come to expect of them in this season and Villa defended stubbornly though they were absolutely toothless in attack. The game screamed for a moment of inspiration and Ronaldo provided it. Starting from his own half, he produced a mesmerising run and though his initial shot was blocked the ball duly fell back to him and he did not miss, he blasted home from 20 yards.

Five minutes later, our lead was doubled as the quietly effective Scholes sent a thunderous volley under the bar from 30 yards and the game was effectively over. Sir Alex sent on Wayne Rooney who started the game on the bench and the Reds’ football became flowing and Wazza managed to be effective even on the right wing he had been shunted out to.

Ronaldo could have added to his tally had the linesman not been so alert but the man with the flag disallowed his goal but he let play on five minutes from time when a fantastic counter ended with Gary Neville squaring the ball for Ronaldo who tapped it into the net with Kiraly appealing for offside.

I think it was a promising game. Villa are a handful, as Fergie pointed out after the game and to win at their stadium 3-0 with a relatively poor performance is something we can build upon. We can’t always play well so we must learn to win when we’re playing badly and I think that was what we had seen on Saturday.

Player Ratings

van der Sar 6
Rarely troubled.

GaryNeville 7
Got forward well.

Vidic 7
Made a horrendous challenge in the first half for which he was rightly booked but otherwise he was impressive as ever.

Ferdinand 7

Evra 7
Good work with Ronaldo.

Fletcher 6
Tireless, full of running.

Scholes 7
Fantastic goal, effective passing.

Giggs 5
He’s clearly out of form.

Park 6
His workrate is impressive.

Saha 6
The defence controlled him.

Ronaldo 8
Frustrated and frustrating in the first half but fantastic in the second.

Rooney 6
Contributed to the third goal.

O’Shea 6
No impact.
Late cameo.