Manchester United secured their fourth straight win at home to Stoke City in the first midweek action of the Premier League season to hang-on to fourth position on the standings.
Goals from Maroaune Fellaini and Juan Mata ensured that Louis van Gaal’s men retain confidence ahead of the weekend’s trip to third-placed Southampton.
Teenager James Wilson started upfront in place of the injured Wayne Rooney and as expected, Angel Di Maria joined the United’s skipper on the sidelines, with Ander Herrera earning his promotion to the stating XI following his impressive outing over the weekend.
Mark Hughes rang a trio of changes from the side that lost 1-0 at Liverpool last time, as forward Oussama Assaidi came in for Jon Walters, while right-back Phil Bardsley and midfielder Stephen Ireland took Marko Arnatauvic’s and Steve Sidwell’s places.
The last meeting between both sides resulted in Stoke’s first-ever Premier League win over United and having earned results against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur already in the present term, the Old Trafford folks were on their guard right from the onset.
Herrera should have opened scores just after a quarter of an hour but let fly his shot from inside of the box after Robin van Persie collected a terrible clearance from Asmir Begovic to cut a neat pass on to the Spaniard.
After struggling to get the breakthrough their good start deserved, Fellaini slotted the hosts in ascendancy on 21 minutes, rising head above others to powerfully thump Herrera’s cross in at the back post.
Stoke continued to have their fair share of chances and Bojan was halted from equalising by a superb Marcos Rojo defending; the Argentine recovering brilliantly to clear a nearly good pass from in front of the former Barcelona forward.
The Potters would not relent and leveled through Steven Nzonzi, 9 minutes after half an hour. Bojan started off a surging move through the United defence, then watched the ball hit Chris Smalling’s heels and break to Nzonzi, who fired in from the edge of the area.
Fellaini forced Begovic to another save- though from a tame shot- as both sides went into the break deadlocked on a goal apiece.
United hit the ground running after the break, hanging high up about the visitors’ end for the winning goal.
That which Mata delivered in the 59th minute, when his curled free-kick evaded everybody and bounced in at the back post- though Rojo appeared to claim his head touched the ball.
David de Gea had been more of a spectator for much of the proceeding but not in the last ten minutes, with Hughes’ side opting for more direct attack.
Former United man Mame Biram Diouf almost pulled off a Stoke leveler, but De Gea made a good reflexive save to claw out the Senegalese’s back post header.
The Spanish goalkeeper then blocked substitute Marko Arnautovic’s effort and Ashley Young was on hand to clear Diouf’s follow up off the line as United clung to their fourth victory in four matches.
As for Stoke, it was their third straight loss since last month’s home defeat by Burnley.
Other EPL results on Tuesday
West Brom 1-2 West Ham
Palace 0-1 Villa
Leicester 1-3 Liverpool
Burnley 1-1 Newcastle
Swansea 2-0 QPR