The reigning champions recorded a fourth win in five league outings to jump back to second after Tottenham temporarily displaced them earlier today with Phil Jones opening his United account via a neat 20th minute finish.
The result means Villa have not beaten Man Utd at their own home since August 1995 and forced Alex McLeish's men to drop to ninth on the table after just one win in their last seven outings.
United dominated the first 20 minutes and it paid dividends when they opened the scoring through Jones who scored his first-ever club career goal with a controlled side-footed volley from just outside the six-yard box Nani's cross from the left.
Earlier in the match, the Red Devils lost Javier Hernandez who was stretchered off with suspected ankle ligament damage inside ten minutes whilst Villa keeper Shay Given succumbed to a hamstring injury prior to half-time, giving back-up gloveman Brad Guzan just his second Premier League appearance.
Given pulled off a smart save when Nani headed on target from close range in the 25th minute before Antonio Valencia rocket inches wide of the mark with his thunderbolt from range about seven minutes later.
The second half did a lot to turn neutrals off the game with very few half-chances let alone out-and-out goalscoring opportunities as Villa seemed to go through the motions despite trailing in front of their home fans.
McLeish's charges were playing into the hands of United, who looked happy to hold onto their 1-0 lead, but they close to finding themselves level when James Collins forced a top save out of Anders Lindegaard in the 76th minute with a close range header.
As the minutes ticked over, Villa looked threatening as they searched for a leveler but it was United who came closest when Wayne Rooney fired over the crossbar from close range as Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated his record-breaking 973rd league game in charge with a timely victory.
TRIBAL ASKS: Man Utd did what they had to yet again. Is this the way they will win another title rather than putting teams away like Man City are?
Yellow cards:AV - nil MANU - nil