Aston Villa dismantled Sheffield United to return to the top four of the Premier League with a resounding victory that leaves Sheffield United rooted at the bottom of the table

Unai Emery’s team overwhelmed the poor hosts with four goals in the opening half-hour at Bramall Lane – scored by John McGinn, Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, and Youri Tielemans – before Alex Moreno added a fifth after the break.

McGinn opened the scoring in the 12th minute after Watkins’ shot towards the goal was cleared off the line by Sheffield United captain Anel Ahmedhodzic, but Watkins didn’t miss his next chance, finding the bottom corner after receiving a beautiful outside-of-the-boot pass from Douglas Luiz.

The alarm bells were ringing loudly for Chris Wilder’s side when Bailey curled in a delightful third goal inside 20 minutes, leading some home supporters to head for an early exit.

Villa pressed for more, and Tielemans, having just seen his shot cleared off the line, unleashed a blistering strike from the edge of the box following the resulting corner to add a fourth as Bramall Lane continued to empty.

Those home fans who remained expressed their dissatisfaction as the halftime whistle was met with boos, but their collective mood only worsened just 83 seconds after the restart when Moreno headed in Watkins’ cross to make it 5-0.

Substitute Moussa Diaby’s fierce strike was saved by Foderingham as Villa sought to add to their tally, while Sheffield United were denied a late consolation when Vinicius Souza’s injury-time finish was ruled out for offside.

The victory moved Villa level on points with second-placed Manchester City and Arsenal directly above them, although they have played more games than both of those sides.

But for Sheffield United, now 10 points from safety, the outlook appears increasingly grim.

Five-star Villa maintain top-four push
Villa had not won at Sheffield United in the top flight for 30 years, last doing so in April 1994 – but they ended that wait in emphatic fashion on Saturday night.

Despite arriving in Sheffield with only one win in their past five league games – taking just five points during that run – an outstanding start to the campaign has ensured Emery’s side remain firmly in the fight for a Champions League place.

Defeat by Newcastle in midweek allowed Tottenham to leapfrog Villa into fourth, but, as they have done following each of their five defeats this season, Villa responded to that setback with victory – this time to heap more misery on Sheffield United.

Watkins continues to impress as he aims to make Gareth Southgate’s England squad at Euro 2024 this summer, with his goal and two assists in this match making the 28-year-old the first player to reach double figures for both goals (11) and assists (10) in the Premier League this season.

Bailey also shone in a fluid Villa attack which repeatedly sliced open the hosts’ defense with ease, the Jamaica forward displaying his quality in front of goal with a well-taken finish in a complete performance.

Villa threatened to humiliate the hosts when Moreno made it five shortly after half-time, but that tally was enough to give Villa their biggest away win in the Premier League since April 2008 as Emery’s side comfortably saw out victory.

“I’m happy because before the match we were very focused to react [to the Newcastle loss]. We scored goals, created chances and stopped them,” Emery told BBC Sport.

“We have to try to focus each match. We’re really happy. Our aggression was fantastic.”

Dismal Blades outclassed and in trouble
Sheffield United were outclassed in every department and, on this evidence, appear destined for an immediate return to the Championship.

In Premier League history, the three previous teams to accumulate as few as 10 points at this stage of the season have all been relegated.

The Blades look increasingly likely to suffer the same fate. In desperate need of a rapid upturn in form, they instead suffered a significant setback here – not least to their belief.

They have won twice all season, are winless in seven league games, and have conceded the most goals of any side at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1965-66.z z z z z z z z z z z

The seats were rapidly emptying inside 30 minutes, with loud boos at the full-time whistle. United have now lost 31 of their 40 most recent Premier League games under Wilder, who has overseen one win in eight games since he was reappointed in early December.

Their only threatening spell arrived inside the closing 15 minutes, when Emiliano Martinez was forced to make a double save and Jack Robinson had an attempt headed off the line.

But there were few positives for Wilder, who made five changes from the midweek loss to Crystal Palace, and his players must now recover for a crucial trip to fellow promoted side Luton Town next weekend.

“We have to apologize to our supporters because they’ve been superb. We’ve let them down this evening,” said Wilder.

“I don’t think there’s anything to take out of today’s performance. Nothing at all. We’ve been well and truly pumped.”