It’s a deserved win for Manchester United, but by no means a vintage one. The Red Devils weren’t at their best but moments of brilliance from Hernandez and Nani either side of Whitehead’s header secured the win. Stoke really didn’t show much, although they were unlikely to take anything from a United side who have now won 10 out of their 11 league games at home. Thanks for joining Goal.com tonight and be sure to stick around for all the post-match reaction.
FULL-TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 2-1 STOKE
Nani chips a right-footed cross in from the right looking for the onrushing Owen in the penalty area. The striker looks set to chest the ball down before having an effort on goal but Huth does enough to put him off and the ball rolls through to Begovic in the Stoke goal.
Three minutes of added on time at Old Trafford…
Berbatov gives the United fans something to cheer about as he chases down Huth’s short backpass to Begovic. The Stoke goalkeeper manages to clear, however, despite the pressure from the Bulgarian.
Fletcher shows great determination to win the ball from Shawcross before earning a corner down by the United left. Giggs’ short inswinging delivery looks set to find Evra but the Frenchman gets his diving header all wrong and Stoke come clear with the ball.
Although it’s 2-1 to Manchester United, there is still that threat from Stoke. The Potters haven’t been able to create much since Whitehead’s goal but Fuller, Pennant and Walters are all on now and could easily carve out at least one major chance against United’s relatively untested defence.
After a terrific passing move from Manchester United, Rafael receives the ball from Owen on the right. The Brazilian’s cross finds Giggs in the centre but the midfielder’s effort flies wide of the far post. Great build up play from the hosts.
Substitution Darron Gibson Michael Carrick
Substitution Javier Hernández Michael Owen
And now it’s Manchester United’s turn to make some changes. It’s the experienced Carrick and Owen who are on, with Gibson and Hernandez the men to make way.
Substitution Kenwyne Jones Ricardo Fuller
Tony Pulis is making his changes early and is bringing on Fuller for Jones who, other than the odd bit of hold up play, hasn’t had a huge impact on the game.
Wilkinson does well to dispossess Hernandez on the edge of his own area before attempting to smash the ball clear. This bit doesn’t go quite so well… he performs a fantastic Carlton Cole style air-kick and nudges the ball two yards to his right instead of 60 yards downfield. Luckily for the defender, Whitehead is next to him and is able to retain possession for the visitors.
Substitution Rory Delap Jonathan Walters
Rafael gets forward down the right and cuts the ball back to Hernandez 18 yards out. The man who’s played a part in both of United’s goals tonight then looks to score his second and his side’s third but can only see his effort fly well over the bar.
Substitution Matthew Etherington Jermaine Pennant
Two changes for Stoke. Delap and Etherington are the men to make way, with Walters and Pennant coming on in their place.
Sir Alex will quite rightly be delighted with that goal. His side dominated the first half, mainly due to Stoke’s lack of pressure, but have not begun the second half all that well. He was perhaps pondering changes but there aren’t too many experienced players on the United bench tonight.
Assist Javier Hernández
GOAL!! NANI WITH AN ABSOLUTE CRACKER! After receiving the ball from Hernandez with his back to goal 18 yards, the Portugal international turns Collins before firing a Ronaldo-esque strike left-footed into the far corner. A brilliant goal from the winger, just moments after he received a volley of abuse from Berbatov for not passing to him quick enough.
Giggs’ excellent cross-field ball finds Hernandez inside the Stoke penalty area. The Mexican can’t quite take the ball under control as Huth nudges it out of play for a corner. United fail to make a chance out of it, though, as Wilkinson clears under pressure from Hernandez.
Giggs, who began the game well but has since been wasteful in possession and may be the first man to be replaced should Sir Alex opt to make a change, lays the ball off to Evra. The Frenchman then finds Rafael 25 yards out but the right-back’s chip into the area is straight through to Begovic in the Stoke goal.
Greg Stobart reports from Old Trafford: Where on earth did that come from? Stoke have somehow levelled through the most unlikely of sources as Dean Whitehead drifted into the box and perfectly nodded home Tuncay's cross. Nemanja Vidic was caught under the ball there - and now this could get interesting.
GOAL!! WHITEHEAD WITH THE EQUALISER! Tuncay tricks Smalling into thinking he’s going to play in Etherington down the left but instead checks inside on to his right foot. The Turkey international then stands up a great cross into the penalty area looking for a navy shirt. Whitehead escapes his marker Evra to reach the ball first and head past Kuszczak to level. A rare goal for the midfielder, and a shock start to the second half.
Assist Tuncay Şanlı
Goal Dean Whitehead
Berbatov does brilliantly down the left to race past Wilkinson before eventually finding Giggs on the edge of the Stoke penalty area. The veteran then tries to pick out Nani on the right side of the box but his pass is very poor by his standards and Stoke clear. Even a few groans are heard by the Old Trafford faithful.
Fletcher attempts to get a quick attack going at the start of the second half as he spreads a long cross field ball over to Evra on the left wing. However, the pass is just a little too heavy and sails out of play.
Manchester United kick us off for the second half.
Greg Stobart reports from Old Trafford: Half-time at Old Trafford, where Manchester United lead Stoke 1-0 thanks to a brilliant flicked finish from Javier Hernandez. If it stays like this, Sir Alex Ferguson's side will go three points clear at the top of the Premier League with a game in hand over Manchester City. Stoke came for a goalless draw and have offered absolutely nothing in attack against an indomitable United defence. The hosts are in cruise control here.
HALF-TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 STOKE
Just the one minute of added time in this first half…
United are enjoying a huge amount of possession towards the end of this half. Stoke seem quite happy to stand off and wait for a mistake before looking to hit them on the counter - it’s not working.
Etherington receives the ball around 30 yards out and takes it forward before having the option of either slipping a pass through to Jones inside the area or shooting at goal. He opts for the latter but sees his left-footed effort fly well over the bar. Jones is furious with him, and rightly so.
Nani arrives late on the right side of the Stoke penalty area to beat his marker in the air and header the ball back into the box towards Hernandez six yards out. The United goalscorer looks to have won a corner as the ball ricochets back off Huth and wide of Begovic’s left-hand post, but Mark Clattenburg says otherwise and awards a goal-kick.
Berbatov lays the ball off to Fletcher around 35 yards out and continues his run towards the edge of the area. Fletcher then plays the return pass to the forward but is gets cut out by Shawcross and Stoke clear.
Etherington launches a long free-kick forward from just inside the United half looking for the head of Huth. Berbatov does just enough to put the German off, though, and Kuszczak is there to deal with the danger.
There weren’t too many chances to speak of before that goal, but you have to feel that United will take control now. Tuncay and Jones are yet to combine up front for Stoke, while Giggs, Evra, Hernandez & Co. have made teasing runs and caused problems to the Potters’ back line.
Greg Stobart reports from Old Trafford: Javier Hernandez loves playing against Stoke, doesn't he? A brilliantly improvised 'Chic flick' from the Mexican puts United in the lead and it was just the moment of class the hosts were looking for. The way Stoke are set up, it's hard to see them getting back into this.
Goal Javier Hernández
GOAL!! HERNANDEZ WITH A GREAT BIT OF SKILL! Nani’s the architect as drills in a cross through a defender’s legs and into the penalty area. Hernandez then steals in two score an absolute beauty, brilliantly flicking the ball behind his legs and past Begovic into the corner of the goal. Fantastic technique, and United lead!
And just moments before that Berbatov chance, there were claims for a Manchester United penalty. Shawcross appeared to handle the ball when under pressure from Giggs inside his own area but referee Mark Clattenburg waved play on. It didn’t look intentional but as the saying goes, ‘you’ve seen them given’.
BERBATOV FIRES WIDE! He should have put that one away! Giggs causes problems again for the Stoke defence and Berbatov is presented with an opportunity that he just can’t miss. He receives the ball six yards out but can only side-foot his effort wide. What a chance for United to go ahead - chance wasted…
Tuncay looks to have picked up a knock for Stoke after being involved in a challenge with Evra. The Turk is only just caught by the Manchester United left-back but makes a meal of it in truth. He lies on his back, rolls his sock down and looks as though he can’t continue before getting back to his feet and hustling opponents as usual. A bit of playacting from the former Middlesbrough man…
Greg Stobart reports from Old Trafford: Some impressive noise ringing around Old Trafford from the small band of away fans who have made the journey tonight. 'Stoke will tear you apart again' they sing after watching their side make a solid start to the game. But they are sitting very deep and frustrating United is a tactic that has rarely worked this season.
Fletcher bombs forward through the centre of the pitch and lays the ball off to Berbatov just inside the Stoke area. The Bulgarian tries to turn the ball onto his right foot but is stopped in his tracks as Wilkinson gets back to put in a great block to clear the ball to safety.
Fletcher picks out Giggs in the centre of the midfield, and the Welshman plays an inch-perfect ball over the defence and through to the onrushing Hernandez. The Manchester United striker only has to bring the ball under control and beat the goalkeeper, but he’s offside and Stoke are awarded a free-kick.
Tuncay, making a rare start, finds Wilkinson in acres of space on the right wing, but the Stoke full-back dwells on the ball for far too long and the move breaks down. He had Jones and Whitehead in support, the defender - should have done better.
Giggs runs at the heart of the defence on the edge of the area but is crowded out by Stoke's centre-backs. Berbatov attempts to keep the move alive but fails to do so and the visitors eventually come clear with the ball.
Great effort from Gibson, but it doesn’t test Begovic. Giggs receives a pass from Evra and slips a nice pass into the path of Gibson. The Ireland international then attempts a trademark strike from the edge of the area but can only smash his effort wide.
Greg Stobart reports from Old Trafford: Brilliant warm up before kick-off from the linesman on the near touchline. Much to the hilarity of the press pack, he's prancing around and pointing his flag around like an American cheerleader.
Rafael plays a long searching through ball down the right towards Hernandez. The little Mexican manages to latch onto it but can’t steer the ball back into the area to a team-mate and Begovic claims easily at his near post.
Stoke get us under way at Old Trafford.
Stoke: Begovic; Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Collins; Delap, Whitehead, Wilson, Etherington; Tuncay, Jones. Subs: Sorensen, Higginbotham, Whelan, Pugh, Pennant, Fuller, Walters.
Tony Pulis has opted to hand Tuncay a first start in two months tonight. The Turkey international joins Robert Huth and Marc Wilson in returning to the starting line-up, with Danny Higginbotham, Jermaine Pennant and Ricardo Fuller all dropping to the bench.
Manchester United: Kuszczak; Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Gibson, Giggs; Berbatov, Hernandez. Subs: Amos, Owen, Anderson, Carrick, Fabio, Evans, Obertan.
Wayne Rooney hasn’t recovered in time from his ankle injury to feature tonight, so Javier Hernandez starts alongside Dimitar Berbatov in attack. He’s not the only one to miss out for the hosts, as Rio Ferdinand, Edwin van der Sar and Gary Neville are all rested.
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com’s live coverage of the Premier League clash between Manchester United and Stoke City. My name is Danny Hart and I will be taking you through tonight’s game.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed