Wayne Rooney scored two first half goals to help send Manchester United to a 4-1 win over a spirited Aston Villa on Saturday, temporarily lifting the gloom surrounding David Moyes' dismal first term in charge.
Last season's champions have looked a pale imitation of the United sides that bossed the Premier League under former manager Alex Ferguson, and have slumped to seventh on the back of poor home form that includes consecutive 3-0 defeats to bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.
The Old Trafford crowd, many of whom booed an anti-Moyes banner that was flown over the ground as the match started, had further cause to grumble when Ashley Westwood put Villa ahead with a 13th minute free-kick.
Rooney headed United level six minutes later before putting them ahead from the penalty spot just before halftime as he moved into fourth spot in the all-time Premier League scoring charts.
Christian Benteke missed two glorious chances to draw Villa level before Spaniard Juan Mata scored his first goal since his big money move from Chelsea in January.
Substitute Javier Hernandez rounded off the win in injury time as United moved to 54 points, nine off fourth-placed Arsenal in the final Champions League spot.
Leaders Chelsea shocked by Crystal Palace
Chelsea's Premier League title ambitions took a major hit on Saturday when a John Terry own goal condemned the leaders to a shock 1-0 defeat at lowly Crystal Palace.
As Chelsea sank to their first defeat by Palace in 24 years, reigning champions Manchester United ended a week of turmoil with a 4-1 victory over Aston Villa thanks to two goals by England striker Wayne Rooney.
Terry headed a Joel Ward cross into his own goal early in the second half, amid suggestions it touched Palace defender Joe Ledley's hand on the way in.
Chelsea remained top of the table with 69 points, one ahead of Liverpool who can go top when they play Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Goals to England trio Jay Rodriguez (2), Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana helped Southampton cruise to a 4-0 win over a toothless Newcastle United, while a Jonathan de Guzman double and a Wayne Routledge strike saw Swansea beat Norwich City 3-0 for only their third win in 18 matches
Peter Odemwingie's scoring streak since joining Stoke City continued as he registered the only goal of the match in a 1-0 win over Hull City, while Cardiff fought back from going two down to draw 3-3 at fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion.
Image: Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring
Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters