Premier League - United beat Stoke to go level at top

Tue, 31 Jan 22:15:00 2012

Manchester United cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory against Stoke City at Old Trafford to go level at the top with Manchester City, who lost at Everton.

Man Utd 2 Stoke 0

The result was never in any doubt as United scored a penalty in either half, courtesy of Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov.

Stoke created next to nothing in attack in a largely forgettable game, and were lucky not to concede another clear-cut penalty with 20 minutes to go.

United made light of Wayne Rooney's continued absence, while Ben Amos kept a clean sheet on his first start in goal. The 21-year-old came for David De Gea, who was officially listed as ill, but it was no surprise to see him taken out of the firing line after a nightmare performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup on Saturday.

The away side had 26 per cent possession in the first half and no shots on target. United were also pedestrian in a surprisingly lacklustre opening period.

The first incident of note came as Hernandez got to the by-line, just a couple of yards from goal. He elected to shoot rather than cross and his effort flew into the side netting.

Just a couple of minutes later and Paul Scholes turned back time as he very nearly scored what would have been a classic Scholes goal. Following a corner, Berbatov nudged it back to the veteran midfielder, who smashed an effort on the half volley from 20 yards inches wide.

Michael Carrick breached the Stoke defence 10 minutes from half time after being played in by an excellent reverse ball from Berbatov, but his first time effort went agonisingly wide of the far post.

United wouldn’t have long to wait though as just five minutes later Jermaine Pennant brought down Park Ji-Sung in the box, and Hernandez stepped up to send Thomas Sorensen the wrong way.

It didn’t take long for United to double their lead in the second period. Jonathan Walters, chasing Antonio Valencia, inexplicably tugged his man in the area after 52 minutes in one of the most clear cut penalties you’ll ever see.

Strangely, it was Berbatov who took the penalty even with Hernandez still on the pitch. It didn’t matter though as the Bulgarian slotted it right into the corner, Sorenson going the right way, but unable to get there.

After 71 minutes an almost equally clear cut penalty should have been given as Patrice Evra was brought down from behind when darting into the area. Perhaps aware he’d given two already though, Mike Jones waved play on.

Paul Pogba made a late appearance for United and looked very impressive during his cameo, sending in a series of dangerous crosses from the right.

Berbatov missed a sitter late on, but it didn’t matter. Manchester City will be very worried indeed.

Tom Embury-Dennis / Eurosport

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