Second string Manchester United cruise to victory over Stoke

Manchester United 2 Stoke 0

Manchester United made light of their chronic injury list to turn up the
heat in the Barclays Premier League title race by overcoming a subdued
Stoke outfit at Old Trafford.

A penalty in each half, from Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov, was enough to turn the game into a victory cruise for Sir Alex Ferguson's team.

Much stiffer challenges lay ahead in the form of their next two opponents, Chelsea and Liverpool.

However, considering he was without 11 senior players this evening, including both first-choice keepers, Ferguson will have been delighted to end the evening in better shape that they started it.

The Scot must dread every day that he has to name a team just now.

For once, the United manager was completely accurate with the state of his injuries on Saturday when, in the wake of that FA Cup defeat to Liverpool, he said only Rio Ferdinand was expected to be available of those already walking wounded.

What Ferguson could not have envisaged was that within 48 hours, his goalkeeping ranks would be ravaged as well.

Anders Lindegaard suffered what is thought to be a serious ankle injury in training, prior to which, David de Gea had gone home poorly.

De Gea had recovered enough to take his place in the stands this evening.

However, after recent nervous displays, it perhaps was not a bad thing that he sat out this test of his mettle, even if 21-year-old replacement Ben Amos was making his Premier League bow.

As it turned out, the Macclesfield-born youngster had relatively little to do, other than watch a couple of shots fly wide.

The problems were further forward, where Antonio Valencia seemed to be the only plausible way of breaking Stoke down with both Nani and Ashley Young on the sick list as well as Wayne Rooney.

Valencia is in top form at the moment but he needed help, which took a little while in arriving.

At 37 and fresh out of retirement, Paul Scholes was being asked to start his second game in four days.

The veteran midfielder came close to breaking the deadlock with a shot that flicked wide off Wilson Palacios.

Michael Carrick got caught in two minds as he raced onto Dimitar Berbatov's lay-off and rolled a cross-shot wide of the far-post.

It looked like being a long evening until Park raced onto a short pass from Scholes and drew a reckless tackle from Jermaine Pennant.

Despite the Stoke protests, TV replays showed the former Liverpool man had fouled Park and, quick to take the responsibility, Hernandez found the bottom corner with a nerveless effort from the spot, sending Thomas Sorensen the wrong way.

Robert Huth got away with handling Hernandez's cross just before the break but seven minutes after the restart, United were awarded a second spot-kick when Jon Walters bundled Valencia over.

Despite the clinical nature of Hernandez's previous effort, this time Berbatov assumed the responsibility.

The pressure was on but the Bulgarian delivered the goods, beating Sorensen with a shot to the bottom corner as the Dane went the right way.

Without an Old Trafford win since 1976, the meek manner of Stoke's performance was totally at odds with their normal displays.

Tony Pulis showed his displeasure by replacing Crouch with Cameron Jerome and it wasn't long before the substitute brought a decent save out of Amos, although the fact he needed two attempts to smother suggested Stoke may have got some reward had they been able to put him under concerted pressure.

It wasn't happening though and Ferguson felt sufficiently emboldened to hand Paul Pogba his Premier League bow.

On the day Ravel Morrison joined West Ham, it was a telling gesture.

Although he has not had any of Morrison's many off-field problems to distract him, the 18-year-old is also wavering over signing a new contract.

Losing one player of promise is forgivable, for a second to leave in the summer would be very bad news for the Red Devils.

Pogba settled nicely too, catching the eye with one neat piece of skill that created a crossing opportunity before having a first-time shot blocked by Wilkinson.

The champions should have given the score an even rosier glow when Berbatov prodded Valencia's cut-back wide in stoppage time.

 

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
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

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us