Berbatov with late winner as Manchester United extend lead

Manchester United 1 Bolton 0

Dimitar Berbatov struck three minutes from time to give 10-man Manchester United a precious Premier League win over Bolton.

The hosts were already labouring badly when Jonny Evans was sent off for a reckless second-half challenge on Stuart Holden.



But United made light of the handicap and after Matthew Taylor had failed to take a glorious chance for the visitors, Berbatov pounced, netting his 21st goal of the season after the normally reliable Jussi Jaaskelainen had failed to hold Nani's long-range effort.



After missing each other on Tuesday, Rio Ferdinand and Fabio Capello were both present in the Old Trafford directors' box amid heightened speculation that John Terry is about to be reinstalled as England skipper.



Someone who looked suspiciously like Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Douglas Costa was there too, an interesting development given United were so heavily linked with the Brazilian last year.



The major figure though was Sir Alex Ferguson, who began a five-match touchline ban by communicating with the home dug-out by telephone.



It was probably just as well Ferguson was in the sanctuary of the stands as his opinion of Andre Marriner's decision not to award United an early penalty when Javier Hernandez's shot bounced onto Gary Cahill's arm was probably not worth repeating.



Once that call went their way, Bolton enjoyed themselves.



Fabrice Muamba revelled in the space afforded to him by a United midfield too light on physical contact and with Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander getting the better of Evans and Chris Smalling the hosts creaked badly.



Edwin van der Sar got his positioning just right to ensure Martin Petrov's curling free-kick did not find the net, Daniel Sturridge failed to make the most of a half-chance and Elmander fired a thunderbolt straight at Patrice Evra.



There was over half an hour on the clock when the hosts carved out a decent chance, Antonio Valencia, on his first start since September, rolled a pass to Wayne Rooney.



The England man cut a cross back to Hernandez at the near-post but the Mexican could not keep his near-post effort on target.



Rooney was off target with a couple of efforts too but United were so lacklustre it was no surprise both Fabio and, more importantly, Dimitar Berbatov were introduced at the break.



The double change triggered a shift in momentum, with United gaining the initiative.



However, Berbatov's relative lack of pace compared to Hernandez was a major factor in the Bulgarian getting caught offside as he tried to gain half a yard in his attempts to reach through balls from Smalling and Rooney.



Petrov was not too far away with a speculative effort from an acute angle after he received the ball straight back from his own corner, proof that Bolton remained a huge danger.



The Red Devils were starting to force their opponents back though, even if the end product was more of an increase in pressure than anything tangible in the way of clear-cut opportunities.



Bolton survived when Rooney used his strength to collect a short pass from Ryan Giggs and lay the ball off to Berbatov.



The £30.75million striker managed to get his snap-shot away but it was marginally off target.



Cahill then outsprinted Berbatov to reach Valencia's through ball before the entire complexion of the contest changed with Evans' dismissal.



The Northern Ireland defender has never been regarded as a dirty player and on first glance, it appeared Evans had merely come out on top in a 50-50 duel for possession.



Marriner was close enough to come up with a different theory, producing a red card that forced Michael Carrick to take up a defensive position and Rooney to operate in central midfield.



For Holden, the injury was serious enough to warrant immediate calls for a stretcher, just over 12 months after he broke a leg in a tackle with Nigel de Jong that nearly forced him to miss the World Cup.



The loss of a player did not affect United's attitude as Wayne Rooney went close.



But there were gaping holes at the other end and Taylor could only hold his head in his hands as he sent a free header from eight yards straight at Van der Sar.



Bolton must have known such opportunities could not be squandered, even against a side with 10 men.



And as Berbatov tapped home, following Jaaskelainen's blunder, the feeling of this being a key day in the title battle was inescapable.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas