Match Analysis: Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United

United striker Robin Van Persie celebrates with Sir Alex Ferguson after scoring a penalty against Stoke on April 14, 2013
© PA Photos
Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Manchester United's 2-0 win over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium this afternoon.

Manchester United took a step closer to clinching the Premier League title this afternoon, beating Stoke City 2-0 at the Britannia Stadium.

Michael Carrick gave the hosts the lead after just three minutes when he poked the ball past Asmir Begovic after Stoke had failed to clear a corner.

United's second goal came in the second half when Robin van Persie was brought down by Andy Wilkinson inside the box. The referee correctly awarded a penalty, which Van Persie took himself, beating Begovic who guessed the right way.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at just how United regained their 15-point lead at the top of the table.

Match statistics:

Stoke:
Shots 13
On target 4
Possession 51%
Corners 3
Fouls 9

Man Utd:
Shots 9
On target 3
Possession 49%
Corners 7
Fouls 9

Was the result fair?

Yes. Manchester United never looked like losing this game or even drawing it from the moment Michael Carrick gave them the lead in the third minute. Stoke didn't make it easy for the Red Devils by any means, but United weren't in any serious danger of conceding at any point in the match. Stoke may have edged the possession, but United dictated the tempo of the game and deserved the three points.

Stoke's performance

It was a mixed bag from Stoke today. You never expect free-flowing passing football from the Potters, but at the start of their match even their trademark desire, hunger and competitiveness seemed to have deserted them. They improved as the half went on and began to press United higher up the pitch, giving them no time on the ball, but they never looked capable of breaking the visitors down. The second half was a similar story, and United's second goal was the final nail in the coffin for the hosts.

Man Utd's performance

Not exactly a vintage performance from the soon-to-be champions, but manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be happy enough. The Britannia Stadium is a tough test for any team, but United never look in danger this afternoon. They needed to grind out the result to a certain extent and it wasn't the prettiest performance from the Red Devils, but they did exactly what they needed to do to come away with all three points.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Michael Carrick: No one player stood head and shoulders above the rest today, but Carrick was influential in midfield throughout. He and Wayne Rooney controlled the tempo of the match and Carrick in particular was always available if a teammate needed a pass. His goal may propel him to the headlines, but he has putting in these sorts of performances all season and has established himself as one of United's most important players.

Biggest gaffe

This has to go to the unfortunate Ryan Shotton. He was playing out wide right today, seemingly only to track the runs of Patrice Evra. He did his defensive duties well but was less impressive in attack. This was summed up towards the end when he went to put a cross in, only to completely miskick it and send it out for a goal kick. It was a comical moment in the match and Shotton was able to laugh at himself after it had happened.

Referee performance

Jon Moss had a decent enough game. He was unwilling to reach inside his pocket at every opportunity, which is a refreshing approach to refereeing. He had two big decisions to make in the match and he got one right and one wrong. The first was United's penalty when Andy Wilkinson brought Van Persie down inside the box. He was right to award this spot kick and Wilkinson had no complaints, but he perhaps should have given one to Stoke not long afterwards. Vidic slipped under a high ball, bringing Kenwyne Jones down with him inside the box. It was an unfortunate moment for the United defender, but it was still a foul and should have been a penalty.

What next?

Stoke: Stoke face a huge relegation battle at home to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

Man Utd: United, meanwhile, can take another step towards their 20th league title against West Ham United at Upton Park on Wednesday.

United players congratulate Michael Carrick after a goal against Stoke on April 14, 2013
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