Despite not getting into their full stride, Sir Alex Ferguson's men collected all three points over a subdued Baggies side
A fairly one-sided affair was dominated by the reigning champions, who should have won by a bigger margin if not for their profligacy in front of goal.
A moment of opportunism and a coolly taken penalty from Wayne Rooney secured all three points for the Red Devils, as the visitors were thwarted by David de Gea on the few occasions they managed to break out of their own half.
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Sir Alex made four changes to the side that was humbled at home to Athletic Bilbao in midweek with Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Danny Welbeck all restored to the starting line-up.
For the visitors there were two changes to the side victorious over Chelsea last weekend, with Gabriel Tamas and Chris Brunt starting in place of Jerome Thomas and the injured Steven Reid.
Despite an early spell of dominance from the home side, it was Roy Hodgon’s men who created the first clear-cut opportunity.
After Liam Ridgewell had done well down the United left, the defender cut the ball back to the unmarked Keith Andrews who prodded wide from six yards out, when it was perhaps easier to test De Gea.
United responded well to the early warning, with both Welbeck and Ashley Young coming close before Andrews stung the palms of the ever-improving de Gea from a free-kick.
The champions enjoyed nearly 70 per cent possession in the opening half hour and it wasn’t long before their superiority resulted into a half-time lead.
Following good work from Young, Javier Hernandez found himself with time on the edge of the West Brom area. The Mexican cut back onto his left and curled an effort towards goal, for Rooney to produce a superb piece of opportunism to sneak ahead of Ben Foster and prod his side into the lead, with defenders statuesque around him.
United started the second half in much the same vein and were a width of the post away from doubling their lead.
Impressive interplay between Hernandez and Rooney resulted in the former hitting the post from a circled 25-yard effort, with Foster beaten all ends up.
There was to be no rest bite for the Baggies defence as the onslaught from the home side continued, with Welbeck firing inexplicably wide with just Foster to beat.
However, any chances of a West Brom fight back were relinquished as the visitors pressed the self-destruct button shortly after the hour mark.
First, Jonas Olsson was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card for barging Hernandez to the ground, before Young tumbled in the area under pressure from Andrews to concede a penalty.
Rooney stepped up and coolly slotted home his 20th league goal of the season, sending Foster the wrong way.
Despite the late introduction of an energetic Shane Long, forcing de Gea into a smart save within minutes of coming on, Hodgson’s men never looked like getting back into the game.
With the three points in the bag, United move one point clear at the top of the table at the expense of their Manchester rivals with 10 games of the season left to play.