Match ends, Manchester United 1, Aston Villa 0.
Manchester United 1-0 Aston Villa
Aston Villa have been relegated to English football's second tier for the first time since 1987 after defeat at Manchester United.
Marcus Rashford scored the only goal, sweeping Antonio Valencia's cut-back past goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Villa were second best for much of the game, although Rudy Gestede's volley did hit a post late on.
It was a ninth straight loss for the visitors and left them 15 points from safety with only four matches left.
Does 'anarchy' beckon for Villa?
European Cup winners in 1982, Aston Villa have a proud history but are facing a turbulent immediate future.
Caretaker manager Eric Black has spoken of the danger of the club falling into "anarchy" at the end of a miserable campaign played out against the backdrop of fan protests against Randy Lerner's ownership.
Last time Villa were relegated to the old second division they immediately returned under Graham Taylor and finished second in the top flight the following season.
At Old Trafford they were outplayed for the majority of the game until the introduction of Gestede gave the travelling supporters hope of salvaging something from the day they finally went down.
It was not to be though - and not many of those 1,500 or so supporters will expect their team to be competing in the Champions League by 2018.
Victory for United means they keep up the pressure on Manchester City in fourth place.
This was an important win in the race for a Champions League spot, and important too for the return of forward Wayne Rooney, who last played in the Premier League on 13 February.
The England captain was not at his best - one heavy touch on the edge of the box saw a golden chance slip away - but he played his part in a solid all-round performance from Louis van Gaal's team.
The 18-year-old Rashford - who now has seven goals in 12 United appearances - should have added to his brilliantly taken first but prodded wide under pressure in a bright start to the second half, before Juan Mata could only fire straight at Guzan from a short corner.
Gestede almost drew Villa level when striking the post from a corner with just over five minutes to play, but United winger Memphis Depay was also denied by the post soon after - and United were deserved winners.
What they said
Aston Villa caretaker manager Eric Black: "It's a mood of disappointment. What I will say is today I thought [the Villa players] were outstanding - energy levels, desire to stick to the plan.
"But for some misfortune, I thought we could have got a draw. I know there has been criticism - some of it deserved - but today they showed there was some pride for the shirt.
"There are players in there capable of playing in the Championship. People in certain places will make sure that Villa will come back, I'm confident of that. That process has to start now."
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: "We have three points and make some distance from Southampton and West Ham, so the three points are very important. I'm not too happy with the performance. We have to finish the games a lot earlier and today we didn't do that.
"I have said to the boys before the match that Chelsea can beat Manchester City. City have the problem we had in that they have played this week and Chelsea didn't so they are more prepared. They can beat them I hope."
Man of the match - Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
The stats you need to know
- Aston Villa's relegation is the earliest from the Premier League since Portsmouth were relegated with five games to go in 2009-10.
- Villa have won none of their past 13 Premier League meetings with Manchester United (W0 D3 L10).
- In total United have lost just once in their past 41 Premier League matches against Villa (W30 D10 L1).
- The Red Devils have kept 11 clean sheets in their past 16 Premier League home matches.
- Aston Villa have won none of their past 16 Premier League away games (D3 L13).
Manchester United play at home to Crystal Palace on Wednesday, while Aston Villa's next match is on Saturday when they welcome Southampton to Villa Park.
- 1de Gea
- 25A Valencia
- 8MataSubstituted forFosu-Mensahat 90'minutes
- 10RooneySubstituted forLingardat 67'minutes
- 39RashfordSubstituted forMartialat 76'minutes
- 18RichardsonBooked at 65minsSubstituted forGestedeat 82'minutes
- 19J Ayew
- Kevin Friend
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Manchester United 1, Aston Villa 0.
Anthony Martial (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Idrissa Gueye (Aston Villa).
Offside, Manchester United. Jesse Lingard tries a through ball, but Anthony Martial is caught offside.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Brad Guzan.
Attempt saved. Memphis Depay (Manchester United) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Anthony Martial with a through ball.
Attempt missed. Rudy Gestede (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Alan Hutton with a cross.
Substitution, Manchester United. Timothy Fosu-Mensah replaces Juan Mata.
Anthony Martial (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa).
Offside, Manchester United. Juan Mata tries a through ball, but Anthony Martial is caught offside.
Foul by Marcos Rojo (Manchester United).
Leandro Bacuna (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ashley Westwood with a cross.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Morgan Schneiderlin.
Attempt missed. Rudy Gestede (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Ashley Westwood with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Jesse Lingard.
Attempt blocked. Leandro Bacuna (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Rudy Gestede replaces Kieran Richardson.
Foul by Jesse Lingard (Manchester United).
Scott Sinclair (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Memphis Depay (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Alan Hutton (Aston Villa).
Attempt missed. Juan Mata (Manchester United) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left misses to the right. Assisted by Daley Blind following a corner.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Ciaran Clark.
Substitution, Manchester United. Anthony Martial replaces Marcus Rashford.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Marcus Rashford.
Foul by Antonio Valencia (Manchester United).
Jordan Ayew (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Daley Blind (Manchester United) because of an injury.
Substitution, Manchester United. Jesse Lingard replaces Wayne Rooney.
Attempt missed. Memphis Depay (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.
Kieran Richardson (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Memphis Depay (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Kieran Richardson (Aston Villa).
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Brad Guzan.
Attempt saved. Juan Mata (Manchester United) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Daley Blind.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Scott Sinclair.