Match ends, Aston Villa 0, Manchester United 3.
Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United
Danny Welbeck scored twice as Manchester United avoided a third Premier League defeat in a row by overwhelming Aston Villa.
Welbeck's goals came in the space of three minutes - his opener coming when he slotted in after Adnan Januzaj's header rebounded off the post.
The England striker then slid in to score from Antonio Valencia's cross.
Villa struggled to cope with the visitors and Wayne Rooney set up Tom Cleverley to drive in a third.
United had picked up just two points from their previous four league matches but the style with which they saw off Villa hinted at a return of form and confidence.
The Red Devils are still 10 points behind top-flight leaders Arsenal and seven points adrift of the top four, but they made sure they did not lose a third Premier League game in succession for the first time since December 2001.
Villa had not beaten United at home since 1995 and that record only ever looked like being extended as they lost for the fifth time in eight league outings at their Midlands base.
The home side were hoping to take capitalise on United's poor form and applied some early pressure, with winger Marc Albrighton twice shooting from distance, only for his efforts to be comfortably saved by keeper David De Gea.
However, the visitors responded in emphatic fashion, with two goals from Welbeck putting them firmly in command by half-time.
Rafael's determination helped him cross from the right and, after the unmarked Januzaj's header came back off the inside of the post, Welbeck reacted quickest to side-foot in the rebound from six yards.
The home side barely had time to recover before falling further behind. Villa defender Nathan Baker gave the ball away and Welbeck laid a pass off to right-winger Valencia before charging into the area and beating Januzaj to slot in the Ecuadorian's low cross.
The uplift in United's demeanour from the two goals was palpable and they slickly scythed through Villa with a regularity and ease that threatened more goals.
The pace and trickery of Valencia was particularly potent, and he pulled the ball back for Rooney to drag a shot wide before threading a pass through to Welbeck, who angled his effort beyond Villa keeper Brad Guzan's right-hand post.
Villa rarely troubled De Gea as striker Christian Benteke continued to look out of sorts and notched up a 10th game without scoring.
And United wrapped up the win when the impressive Rooney slid a lovely weighted ball into the path of Cleverley, who scored his first league goal a year to the day since his last one.
Another positive note for United was the 70th-minute introduction of midfielder Darren Fletcher, who returned to first-team action for the first time since Boxing Day last year as he continues his recovery after bowel surgery.
See a photo gallery of all the action from Sunday's Premier League matches on the BBC Sport Facebook site.
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert:
"I thought we started as well as we have done for a number of weeks but the first goal was poor as we should have stopped the cross.
"The second and third goals, we were in possession before they scored.
"The pleasing thing is we never gave up. The disappointing thing for me is the manner of the goals."
- 34LowtonBooked at 65mins
- 6ClarkBooked at 73mins
- 2BakerBooked at 78mins
- 8El AhmadiSubstituted forBacunaat 86'minutes
- 18SyllaSubstituted forWeimannat 62'minutes
- 20BentekeSubstituted forKozákat 79'minutes
- 11AgbonlahorBooked at 50mins
- 1de GeaBooked at 50mins
- 25A Valencia
- 11GiggsSubstituted forFletcherat 70'minutes
- 19WelbeckBooked at 78mins
- 10RooneySubstituted forZahaat 84'minutes
- 44JanuzajSubstituted forYoungat 69'minutes
- Lee Mason
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Aston Villa 0, Manchester United 3.
Foul by Rafael (Manchester United).
Antonio Luna (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Matthew Lowton (Aston Villa).
Foul by Patrice Evra (Manchester United).
Libor Kozák (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt missed. Darren Fletcher (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Ashley Young with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Ciaran Clark.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Leandro Bacuna replaces Karim El Ahmadi.
Foul by Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United).
Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Manchester United. Wilfried Zaha replaces Wayne Rooney.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Brad Guzan.
Attempt saved. Tom Cleverley (Manchester United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Danny Welbeck.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Libor Kozák replaces Christian Benteke.
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card.
Nathan Baker (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Nathan Baker (Aston Villa).
Attempt saved. Karim El Ahmadi (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Foul by Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).
Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt blocked. Karim El Ahmadi (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is too high.
Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa).
Substitution, Manchester United. Darren Fletcher replaces Ryan Giggs.
Substitution, Manchester United. Ashley Young replaces Adnan Januzaj.
Attempt missed. Matthew Lowton (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the right side of the box is too high. Assisted by Karim El Ahmadi.
Matthew Lowton (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Matthew Lowton (Aston Villa).
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Tom Cleverley.
Attempt blocked. Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Attempt blocked. Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Marc Albrighton with a cross.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Andreas Weimann replaces Yacouba Sylla.
Attempt missed. Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Marc Albrighton with a cross.