A winner from man-of-the-match Wayne Rooney helped United to claim their first trophy of the season in the 50th League Cup Final.
Aston Villa will be aggrieved that they could not build on an early penalty. They will be furious, too, with the referee Phil Dowd who should have sent off United's defender Nemanja Vidic after four minutes.
Once the anger has subsided, Villa will recognise that they were gradually over-powered by a stronger United side that had too much guile for the Midlanders.
Martin O'Neill's lack of a Plan B was ruthlessly exposed once United took the offensive.
Here are the player ratings for both sides from an absorbing match which ended in United's 2-1 victory.
Tomasz Kuszczak - 7 : Competent display from the Pole. Criticism of his kicking and distribution will continue, but Kuszczak showed good reflexes throughout. Villa failed to exploit his aerial weaknesses. No chance with Milner’s daisy cutter penalty.
Rafael Da Silva - 6 : The Brazilian's positional play was at fault again as he left Vidic unprotected for Villa’s first goal. Got stronger as the game progressed only to succumb to injury. Replaced by Neville on 66 minutes
Nemanja Vidic - 5 : Again showed his vulnerabilities against pace when forced into conceding penalty after four minutes. Should have been sent off too for the offence. Villa failed to put enough pressure on the defender in one-on-one situations. Booked on 68 minutes for a trip on Agbonlahor.
Jonny Evans - 6 : Steady showing from the Northern Ireland defender.
Patrice Evra - 6 : Not the buccaneering performance that has distinguished the United captain’s displays this season. Booked for trip on Young on 41 minutes.
Antonio Valencia - 7 : Started slowly getting little change out of Warnock and failed to make the most of United’s possession along the right flank. Redeemed himself with a stronger showing in the second half.
Michael Carrick - 6 : Lacked accuracy in passing and corners early on but helped Fletcher to take control of the midfield. Moved forward with more purpose in second half.
Darren Fletcher - 7 : Solid water carrying from the Scottish player.
Ji Sung Park - 7 : A pleasing directness to his play and might have capped a good performance with a goal on 48 minutes. Replaced by Gibson on 85 minutes.
Michael Owen - 7 : Capitalised on Berbatov’s good approach work to take his goal well on 13 minutes. Replaced on 42 minutes by Rooney after sustaining hamstring injury.
Dimitar Berbatov - 7 : Some lovely touches in the first half, helping to set up a goal for Owen and a half chance for Park. A constant menace to the Villa defence. Played with the languid economy of a top class player.
Wayne Rooney (Sub for Owen) - 8 : Man of the Match —Sometimes lost possession but when it mattered, the goal-machine delivered. Took his goal well from Valencia’s inch- perfect right wing cross on 74 minutes and might have scored with a second powerful header from another Valencia cross.
Gary Neville (Sub for Raphael) - 6 : Fans might have trembled when Raphael went down and was replaced by the veteran, but Neville was barely troubled by Villa’s plethora of left wingers.
Darron Gibson (Sub for Park) - 6 : Hardly had any time to contribute to the game.
Unused Subs: Foster, Brown, Scholes, Gibson, Diouf.
Brad Friedel - 6 : Not too much he could have done with either of United's goals and wasn't particularly troubled by United's attacking play.
Carlos Cuellar - 5 : Got forward to little impact. Didn’t get tight enough on Park to stop the Korean’s early enterprise. Replaced by Carew on 80 minutes.
James Collins - 5 : Booked on 11 minutes for a lunge on Owen. Solid display thereafter until ball-watching lapse allowed Rooney to score winner.
Richard Dunne - 7 : Looked like the forlorn City player of old when his stumble let in Berbatov and helped create United’s first goal. Improved as the game wore on and got forward well towards end of the game as Villa’s anxiety increased
Neil Warnock - 6 : Showed the qualities that have brought him national team recognition with excellent fist half against Valencia. Struggled in the second 45 minutes as the Ecuadorian winger showed his class.
Ashley Young - 6 : Looked more lively as the game wore on but didn't exploit United's frailties at fullback. Should have given Evra a sterner test once the United captain was booked.
James Milner - 7 : Scored penalty and was always Villa’s danger man until fading in the second half. Great audition in front of the watching national team manager Fabio Capello.
Stiliyan Petrov - 5 : Neat and tidy but driven back as United took control of the midfield. Powerless in a poor second half team display.
Stewart Downing - 5 : Booked for scything down Evra on 18 minutes. Flitted in and out of the game.
Emile Heskey - 5 : Won the aerial challenges as expected but restricted to nonthreatening areas where he couldn’t hurt United.
Gabriel Agbonlahor - 7: Blistering first 25 minutes, showing enterprise and pace in Villa’s scorching start but suffered as Villa were pressed back into a more defensive mode. Always had the beating of Vidic in one-to-one duels.
John Carew - 5 : Brought on for Cuellar to beef up Villa’s attack when the Midlanders were chasing the game but had little impact
Unused Subs: Guzan, Luke Young, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Delph, Beye.
Referee - Phil Dowd - 4 : If United expected a hard time from a referee who had sent off Scholes and Rooney last year at Fulham, they were happily mistaken. The referee was decisive in allowing Vidic to stay on the field when his foul on Agbonlahor warranted a red card.
Let the game flow but will be damned for a crucial error.