Man Utd dismiss Stoke to close in on title
Manchester United extended their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League to 15 points from Manchester City with a routine 2-0 win over Stoke City, who are just three points above the relegation zone.
Michael Carrick put United ahead just four minutes in while Robin van Persie's second half penalty sealed victory for Sir Alex Ferguson's men, meaning they can now wrap up the title as early as next Monday's match against Aston Villa.
It was the perfect start for United as Van Persie's corner was not cleared by Geoff Cameron and Carrick was on hand to scramble home his second goal of the campaign.
The visitors came close to a second in similar circumstances as Patrice Evra fired over from another Van Persie delivery while Wayne Rooney, playing in a central midfield role, saw his effort well saved by Asmir Begovic.
Stoke, whose fans produced 60 seconds of applause for late 14-year-old fan Kameron Bourne on the 14 minute mark, did offer a test for United's backline.
They went close to a leveller when Robert Huth headed wide from Glenn Whelan's free kick as they looked for a way back into the game.
Stoke were unusually troubled at defensive set pieces and Carrick headed wide from Rooney's corner while an audacious Van Persie effort from 45 yards went well wide of its target.
Dutchman Van Persie, who was without a United goal since February before this game, saw plenty of the ball and was next to go close as his shot from the edge of the area was pushed around the post by Begovic.
As the game became more physical, with Andy Wilkinson left with a head bandage and a change of shirt, Rooney fired a 30-yard free kick off target as United continued to have the better chances.
But buoyed by a passionate home crowd, Stoke put the visiting defence under pressure with Shawcross deflecting wide a Charlie Adam corner.
Stoke had the wind advantage in the second half but it took them a while to get going in a slow start after the break.
It was United who were first to create a chance in the second 45 minutes as Javier Hernandez played in Van Persie with a delicate pass but the Dutchman shot into the side netting from the angle.
Jonathan Walters fired over on the half volley for Stoke from Ryan Shotton's header down after Steven Nzonzi's cross from the left.
Adam, making his first Stoke start since January, offered the Potters a fair bit of creativity and his fizzling left footed drive nearly caught David De Gea out.
Adam shot from the halfway line with the wind behind him forcing the United keeper to backpedal but he made a comfortable save.
Kenwyne Jones was next to fire in a shot from the edge of the area but it missed its target as Stoke showed they still had some attacking threat in them.
But just as it looked like the hosts would have a chance, United hit them on the break with Van Persie fouled by Wilkinson in the area from Rooney's 67th-minute pass.
Van Persie confidently took the spot kick, ignoring the wind which had blown the ball off its spot, to fire low and hard to Begovic's left.
The relief was evident as the former Arsenal player celebrated with his manager Alex Ferguson.
Stoke heads did not drop though and they were nearly back in the game when Shotton shot straight at De Gea after running onto Adam's cross-field pass.
The hosts sent on former United player Michael Owen as he winds down his career but other than an Adam free kick that was pushed away by De Gea, Stoke struggled to find a goal as they lost for a sixth time out of seven.
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