PREMIER LEAGUE: Manchester United 4 Aston Villa 0
When it comes to Aston Villa's visits to Old Trafford, there are two absolute certainties - one is that the Midlands side will never come away with three points, the other is that the match will be played under leaden skies.
As the rain hammered down, Sir Alex Ferguson's rampant Manchester United proved true to form, tearing apart Martin O'Neill's side with four goals which underlined once again the gulf between the Premier League's top side and those who aspire to hang on to their coat tails.
This was the 150th league meeting between the two sides and O'Neill took his youngsters to Old Trafford at perhaps the worst time this season - on the back of defeats to Sunderland and Portsmouth.
United, meanwhile, were preparing to hang out the bunting and celebrate their 700th win under Ferguson; with Villa not having won at the Theatre of Dreams since 1982, Ronaldo, Rooney et al could perhaps have been forgiven if they had put the flags out even before this game kicked off.
And while sceptics might have thought the Red Devils might be venturing out in the rain with one eye on the Champions League quarter-final with Roma tomorrow they certainly had not told Cristiano Ronaldo about it.
Once again, the class of the world's best player shone through, as he claimed United's opening goal and his 35th of the season. Not content with opening the account, he did it in style in the 17th minute with a sublime back-heel after confusion between Gareth Barry and Wilfred Bouma from a corner.
The ball bounced straight to the feet of the Portuguese wing wizard, who promptly heeled the ball through the legs of Martin Laursen and straight into Scott Carson's goal - all the Villa defence could do was look on, open-mouthed in awe.
The goal could not have come at a worse time for Villa, who were just settling into a brave new format. To his credit, Martin O'Neill had not come looking to kill off the game. Instead, he chose to play with four attackers in Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young on the wings and big men John Carew and Marlon Harewood - making his first Premier League start for Villa - playing through the middle.
The gap caused by the absence of Craig Gardner was not filled, as anticipated, by Olof Mellberg. Instead, the Swedish International reverted to his former role alongside Martin Laursen at centre-half with Zat Knight dropped and Nigel Reo-Coker making a rather surprising debut at right-back. Bulgarian Stiliyan Petrov was restored in the centre of midfield and, for a time, Villa enjoyed a spell of possession.
Indeed, Carew had forced Tomasz Kuszczak to punch clear his eighth-minute shot and Agbonlahor then went close in the 11th minute, only to see his effort blocked on the line.
But after Ronaldo's opener, the visitors appeared to lose their way and it was no great surprise when the player of the season then played his own part in United's second. He picked up on a ball from Wayne Rooney and in turn laid it on for Carlos Tevez wide on the right, who made no mistake with his header, sending Carson sprawling.
The Portuguese star was also involved in United's third and fourth goals - the third as he flicked the ball off the back of his boot into the path of the advancing Rooney in the 53rd minute. The England striker then helped himself to United's fourth after Tevez and Ronaldo had linked up to to undo Villa on 70 minutes.
The scoreline might suggest a rout, especially when a further Rooney shot was ruled offside but Villa were not without their own chances, particularly after the introduction of Shaun Maloney for an injured Carew, who limped off just before half-time with a groin strain.
Maloney had at least three efforts on target - the first on 50 minutes when the diminutive Scot forced Kuszczak to push his long-range shot over the bar and then again in the 58th minute when the keeper just managed to get his finger-tips on the end of an effort from 35 yards.
Maloney also should have done better with a free-kick when Petrov was rewarded after being felled by Nemanja Vidic, but his shot slammed into the United wall.
Among the mayhem, there were other positives. O'Neill was delighted with Reo-Coker's adaptability and Carson put behind him his recent horror shows to keep the scoreline down, while the visiting supporters were once again magnificent.
Ferguson meanwhile felt Rooney, who had not scored on home turf for five months before Saturday, had now warranted his recent England call-up by Fabio Capello. "I thought Wayne was never going to score, but it would be just like him to go on a run now," he said, something that neither Arsenal, nor Roma, would want to hear.
O'Neill, meanwhile, has his sights on getting back to winning ways at home to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday before his season threatens, unlike the rain at Old Trafford, to eventually fizzle out.
Scorers: Ronaldo (17), Tevez (33), Rooney (53, 70).
MANCHESTER UNITED: (4-4-2) Kuszczak, Brown, Ferdinand (Hargreaves, 62), Vidic, Evra (O'Shea, 62), Ronaldo, Carrick (Anderson, 62), Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Tevez. Subs: Foster, Ji-Sung Park.
ASTON VILLA: (4-4-2) Carson, Reo-Coker, Mellberg, Laursen, Bouma (Osbourne, 80) Agbonlahor, Petrov, Barry, Young, Harewood (Salifou, 69), Carew (Maloney, 41). Subs: Taylor, Knight.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).
Bookings: Villa - Bouma (foul).