Manager Martin O'Neill conceded that Villa had been defeated by the best team in Europe at Old Trafford - but insisted his own team's aspirations of European football were still alive.
A third defeat in a row saw Villa slip to eighth but with Blackburn Rovers being held to a 0-0 draw at Reading and Manchester City slipping up at Birmingham, O'Neill believes there is everything to play for.
"United were really brilliant," he said. "They have been in these situations so many times - they are in the quarter finals of the Champions League and going for the Premier League title and they have great determination and ability.
"We have a lot to do if we are still going to be in with a chance of Europe. We have six games to go and we are capable of getting back into it. I know you might think that is mad after this but we are"
O'Neill felt United's performance would serve as a masterclass to his young side. He said: "They have shown us the standard you have to achieve if you are really seriously considering Europe and that will have been an interesting experience for our players.
"We started off brightly and got a bit of possession but United are a class act and they showed that. I was very disappointed last week at losing at home to Sunderland but I thought, amazingly despite the result that, we battled against United."
O'Neill admitted United were the best team he had seen this season. He said: "That was terrific stuff. Ronaldo, as I said last week, is the finest player in the world at the moment and Wayne Rooney wouldn't be far behind him."
Without the injured Craig Gardner, Villa reverted to Olof Mellberg to centre-half and gave midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker the responsibility of playing at right back. He said: "I thought Nigel played great. It was his first game there and I thought he was really excellent.
"We had to go with everything we had, which is why United enjoy playing against us! It was one of those games where we threatened to go out and play but unfortunately we allowed United to go on and play too."
Striker John Carew limped off in the 41st minute with a suspected groin strain and could be out for a week or two.