Prior to today's match, United led crosstown rivals Manchester City by just two points after the pursuers beat Norwich City 6-1 away but Sir Alex Ferguson's flexed some muscle of their won by putting Villa away in front of a loyal Old Trafford crowd.
The first goal came in contentious circumstances when Ashley Young went down very easily under pressure from Ciaran Clark who had pulled out of the challenge only for the winger to make a meal of the minimal contact with referee Mark Halsey getting sucked in and pointing to the spot. Wayne Rooney stepped up and sent Shay Given the other to make it 1-0 after seven minutes.
Late in the first half, United doubled their lead when Danny Welbeck got on the end of a low Patrice Evra cross from the left wing which eluded all in the box for the striker to slide home at the back post.
With just over 15 minutes left, Rooney grabbed his second for the match, and 24th of the season, when he exchanged passes with Antonio Valencia before rifling a low shot past Given who had been wrong-footed by a deflection off James Collins.
Villa had been saved on a number of occasions by Given, who had come up with a handful of vital blocks to deny the home side, but he was unable to keep out Nani in injury time when the Portuguese squeezed in at the near post after latching onto lovely cushioned ball from Jonny Evans to wrap up the contest in emphatic style.
It was a swift reply from United who lost at Wigan Athletic in the week as they held up their end of the bargain in again going clear of City whilst Villa remain 15th following another disappointing result.
Old Trafford, Manchester - 75,138