Jones sinks Villa to keep Manchester United in touch
Birmingham: Manchester United star Phil Jones extended Sir Alex Ferguson`s remarkable hoodoo over Aston Villa as his first career goal secured a 1-0 win at Villa Park that kept the champions in touch at the top.
Jones provided the perfect cure for Ferguson after United`s League Cup embarrassment against Crystal Palace in midweek by securing his manager`s 10th victory in 16 visits to Villa Park.
The England international`s 20th minute goal ensured United went back above Tottenham into second place and left them five points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.
But the victory came at a cost after Mexico striker Javier Hernandez was stretchered off with a serious ankle injury.
Hernandez was clearly in pain as he left the field and early reports suggest the striker suffered ankle ligament damage.
The injury will undoubtedly unsettle Ferguson`s plans for the crucial Champions League clash with FC Basel on Wednesday, though this victory certainly gets United back on track in the Premier League.
A trip to Villa Park was a timely tonic for Ferguson after the Palace coup on Wednesday.
Ferguson hasn`t lost in this part of the West Midlands since August 1995 when TV pundit Alan Hansen famously ridiculed the United team by warning "you`ll win nothing with kids" - with that team then going on to win the title that same season.
But United`s hopes of a stress-free evening were damaged after just six minutes when Hernandez was stretchered off after falling awkwardly on his ankle.
United, however, did not take long to recover from that setback and inched ahead after 20 minutes following a typically sublime move that bamboozled the Villa defence.
Patrice Evra set Nani clear on the left and his perfect cross was expertly directed past goalkeeper Shay Given by Jones to break his duck.
Villa required Given to repel Nani`s header shortly after and that proved to be the Republic of Ireland international`s last save as he became the second player to be carried off with an injury.
Villa manager Alex McLeish never had a honeymoon period at the club due to his past connections with bitter rivals Birmingham and was booed off at half-time after a lacklustre effort from the hosts.
Charles N`Zogbia has piled on the problems for McLeish after being dropped from the squad for allegedly failing to turn up for treatment on Thursday.
And McLeish`s night got even worse just after the hour when Jermaine Jenas - making his first Villa start - became the third player to be taken off injured.
Villa came close to an equaliser 18 minutes from time when Richard Dunne flicked on Barry Bannan`s corner to the far post but Emile Heskey could not direct his header on target.
And United needed Anders Lindegaard to tip over James Collins` powerful header late on but the visitors clung on to stay in contention for a 20th title for Ferguson.