ROBIN van Persie ended his goal drought yesterday as Manchester United restored their 15-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League table and deepened Stoke’s relegation worries.
Scorers: Manchester United: Carrick (4), Van Persie (66 pen)
Van Persie had gone ten domestic matches without scoring but won and then converted a penalty in the 66th minute to make the points safe.
United now need only seven points from their last six games to ensure they cannot be caught by Manchester City. Stoke dropped to 16th before kick-off after Sunderland’s win over Newcastle and, having taken only one point from their last seven games, are looking below them with ever-increasing concern.
Stoke began badly, conceding a fourth-minute corner that they failed to clear, allowing Michael Carrick to prod the ball beyond the despairing dive of keeper Asmir Begovic.
With Wayne Rooney dictating play from a deep-lying midfield role, United were completely in control. Rooney was given space and time to take aim from 25 yards with a shot pushed away by Begovic as Stoke struggled even to touch the ball. Although the home side had the strong wind behind them in the second half, United began the brighter and Van Persie had the chance to end his drought when he was played in by Hernandez but shot into the side-netting.
An encouraging sign for Stoke was the increasing influence of Charlie Adam, and the midfielder tested David de Gea for the first time in the 59th minute with a well-struck shot from long range. But the Potters’ hopes were dealt a crushing blow when they gave away a penalty. A flowing move that began with Phil Jones in United’s right-back spot progressed through Antonio Valencia and Rooney, who picked out Van Persie in the area.
The Dutchman cut inside Wilkinson, who tripped him, and Van Persie stepped up to tuck his spot-kick smartly into the bottom corner.
Stoke’s hopes of taking anything from the game were all but over but they kept pressing and Ryan Shotton forced a decent save from De Gea, who then reacted very well to push Adam’s clever free-kick behind when it was heading for the bottom corner.