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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
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

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?