Manchester United returned to the top of the table after beating Stoke City 2-0 at Old Trafford, while City fell to a Darron Gibson strike away at Goodison Park. Dimitar Berbatov and Javier converted one penalty each on either side of half time, and a United side going into the game without 14 first-team players looked comfortable throughout.
With De Gea sick and Lindegaard on crutches, Ben Amos got his Premier League debut for United, and luckily for him the defence kept Stoke at bay for most of the game. The backline consisting of Smalling, Evans, Rio and Evra managed to stop the threat of Crouch and Jones, and although the latter had a couple of shooting opportunities they often went high or wide.
Scholes and Carrick was paired in the middle for the second home game running, and the two pass-masters impressed throughout and controlled the game without seemingly breaking a sweat. The two of them completed 50 more passes(242) than the whole Stoke team(192), and the Ginger Prince seems back to full fitness completing 90 minutes of football for the first time since his return from retirement.
Carrick, Valencia and Park all had chances to score for United, but the deadlock was not to be broken until the Red Devils got a penalty on 38 minutes. Some neat passing by Scholes and Berba outside the area ended with Park getting fouled by Jermaine Pennant, and none other than Javier Hernandez stepped up to take the penalty. He aimed hard and low into his left-hand corner, and duly converted with aplomb.
United got their second penalty of the game when Antonio Valencia was man-handled within Stoke’s box, and this time a Bulgarian magician stepped up to the place. Dimitar Berbatov, who celebrated his 31th birthday just two days ago, aimed for the other corner and scored, and although Thomas Sørensen got a hand on the penalty was too hard, and too well placed to be saved. His 7th Premier League goal of the season, as many as Chicharito.
Pogba came on for Chicharito after 65 minutes, and the young Frenchman impressed the Old Trafford faithful with some delightful passes and clever movement, and could have had himself a goal had his shot from 10 yards out not been blocked by Ryan Shawcross. He swung in some brilliant crosses and was unlucky not to get at least one assist, with Scholes, Berbatov and Park proving either too short or too slow to convert. The boy is a Manchester United player alright!
United could have had themselves their third penalty of the night had referee Mike Jones spotted the lunge on Patrice Evra, but it was not to be. It looked like the most nailed-on penalty of the night, but United had to settle for the two. Berbatov shot just outside after some wonderful build up play by Valencia, but United just looked to walk the win in by keeping the ball, finishing up with 73% possession. A comfortable win for United, who now look towards Sunday’s game away to Chelsea, without Ashley Cole who got sent off against Swansea. Antonio Valencia, it is made for you.
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