Even so, here are five positives they can take from the narrow loss.
Christian Benteke's showing
Darren who? Their record signing was of course supposed to be their main man this season, but Christian Benteke - Signed on deadline day is fast showing that he is the present and the future of the club. He may still be raw, but his start to the season has been impressive, and his showing against United especially so. He gave both centre-backs a tough time, and provided the opening goal via an excellent show of strength which out-muscled Chris Smalling and saw him go onto provide a timely assist.
Andreas Weimann's goals
Weimann was the man who benefited from Benteke's hard work, but he still had much to do. His finish from the edge of the box was clinical, even if observers felt David de Gea could have done better. But what a moment it was for Villa and their fans, who have not had a great deal of reason to celebrate over the past 18 months. The goal was well timed, just before half-time, but it was also important for the confidence booster it gave the Austrian. He went onto net again in the second half after Agbonlahor's cross, and Villa will be encouraged about their attack. It was a breakout performance for the 21-year-old, who now has the challenge of building on it.
Going into the game, few gave Villa much of a chance, anticipating a comfortable two goal margin for the league leaders. They had fair reason to, United's record at Villa Park is surely the best of any away side over the past decade, and the home side have struggled to click at times this season. Overall despite the defeat, Paul Lambert's side can be pleased with how close they pushed United, and how competitive they were, especially considering Brad Guzan was the oldest player on the pitch at 28. Considering Matthew Lowton and Ashley Westwood were playing in the Football League in May, neither player looked out of place.
Enda Stevens debut
Perhaps Villa's greatest encouragement should be the home debut of Irish left-back Enda Stevens. He could hardly have had a tougher ask, up against United's attack minded duo of Antonio Valencia and Rafael, but he can consider himself more than pleased with his first Premier League start. Valencia was of little significance throughout the match, with Stevens refusing to give him time and space. Paul Lambert described him post-match as 'terrific' and he was more than justified in doing so.
At least it wasn't Ashley Young...
One United player who certainly had a miserable afternoon was former Villa man Ashley Young. The winger undid all of his hard work at Villa Park earlier this year when he dived to win a penalty in United's win at Old Trafford. He was inevitably booed by the home fans as a result, and was ineffective in attack. As a result he was substituted at half-time by Sir Alex Ferguson. His replacement may have been hat-trick man Chicharito, but at least Villa fans can take solace in the fact that Young did not put them to the sword himself.
image: © Ben Sutherland