Live Commentary: Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United - as it happened

Live Commentary: Stoke 0-2 Man Utd - as it happened
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Re-live Sports Mole's text coverage of the Premier League clash between Stoke City and Manchester United.

Manchester United regained their 15-point lead at the top of the Premier League table courtesy of a comfortable 2-0 win over Stoke City this afternoon.

The visitors took the lead after just three minutes when Michael Carrick poked the ball home after Stoke failed to deal with a corner.

United were then awarded a penalty in the second half when Andy Wilkinson brought down Robin van Persie inside the box, allowing the Dutchman to step up and score his first club goal since February.

You can read how the 90 minutes unfolded with Sports Mole's live play-by-play coverage below.

1pmGood afternoon! Thank you for joining Sports Mole for what promises to be an intriguing battle between two very different teams this afternoon as Stoke take on Manchester United.

1.02pmWe'll start by looking at out hosts today. Stoke looked set for another solid, mid-table finish not too long ago, but their recent poor form has dragged them into an ever-changing landscape at the bottom of the Premier League table.

1.04pmAs things stand, however, with Sunderland leading Newcastle as I speak, Stoke would start today's game in 16th place, level on points with Aston Villa who are just above the dotted line themselves. Even more worrying for the Potters is that they will be just three points clear of 18th-placed Wigan who will have two games in hand over all of the teams around them after today's match.

1.06pmSo Stoke are in very real danger this season, and it is the first time they have been in such a situation since their promotion really. Since then, they have established themselves as a solid Premier League club who even the best teams find tough to beat. They've come such a long way since then that them getting relegated would be quite a big shock.

1.08pmHowever, they say the league table doesn't lie and Stoke's recent form does nothing to suggest that they shouldn't find themselves in a relegation battle. Tony Pulis's side have lost five of their last six league games and have only won one of their last 13 - and that was against bottom of the table Reading. That's certainly relegation form.

1.10pmUnited, meanwhile, are going throgh something of a dip of form themselves in their last two matches. They lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final replay before falling to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of 'noisy neighbours' Manchester City on Monday.

1.12pmHowever, their form up to that Chelsea game had been exemplary. There have been plenty of people saying that this current crop of players is not amongst the best that Sir Alex Ferguson has had at the club, but not many could match their form this season. Before the Man City match they had won seven games in a row and and won 16 of their past 18 games, drawing the other two. It's no wonder that they have such an imposing lead at the top of the table.

1.14pmThe 12-point gap at the top of the table should comfortably be enough to see them clinch the title, but in the back of their minds they will be aware of what happened last season. They had an eight point gap with seven games to go then, and lost the title so famously in the dying seconds of the campaign. With seven games to go this time around, you'd get mammoth odds on them blowing it again, but the loss to City may have just allowed a few creeping doubts to enter the minds of the players.

1.16pmA win today would go a long way to sealing the title, though. They would restore the 15-point lead with a win due to City's involvement in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

1.18pmTEAM NEWS: Right, the team news for both sides is in! The headlines from the Stoke camp are that Kenwyne Jones is preferred to Peter Crouch up front, while former Manchester United striker Michael Owen joins Crouch on the bench. United, meanwhile, have gone for a very attacking formation with Rooney, Van Persie and Hernandez all starting. Full team news coming right up...

1.20pmSTOKE STARTING XI: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson; Shotton, Whelan, Nzonzi, Adam, Walters; Jones

1.22pmSTOKE SUBS: Sorensen, Palacios, Owen, Whitehead, Kightly, Crouch, Jerome

1.23pmMANCHESTER UNITED STARTING XI: De Gea; Vidic, Evra, Jones, Ferdinand; Kagawa, Carrick, Valencia; Rooney, Hernandez, van Persie

1.25pmSo, what can we expect from both of those lineups? Well, Stoke rarely spring a suprise in the way they play and I don't expect them to do anything different today. They are always hard to beat at home and I expect them to play combatively and perhaps a little defensively considering the opposition. They won't be afraid to commit numbers in attack but I'm sure Pulis will see a 0-0 draw as a decent result.

1.27pmTheir biggest threat will be Kenwyne Jones up front. When he is on top form he can be a real handful for any defender, but all too often he is a bit of a passenger for Stoke. He is strong in the air, but he is coming up against the likes of Nemanja Vidic this afternoon so he won't expect it all his own way when the inevitable barrage of long balls arrive.

1.29pmElsewhere, Jonathan Walters is capable of weighing in with a goal should the opportunity arise, and United will be wary of giving Charlie Adam too much space to shoot as he can be dangerous from distance.

1.31pmAs for United, their main dangerman is still Robin van Persie. The Dutchman may be going through a barren spell in terms of goals (by his own high standards, I might add), but his performances are still of the highest order. He creates plenty of goals for his teammates and, if you give him the chance, more often than not he will find the back of the net, even in his current scoring drought. Write him off at your peril.

1.33pmEven if Van Persie is lacking goals of late, it is not like he doesn't have players to help him shoulder the responsibility. Wayne Rooney has taken a bit of a back seat since Van Persie's arrival, but he is still a magnificent player who can create a moment of magic out of nothing.

1.35pmWorryingly for Stoke, Ferguson has named three strikers in the starting lineup today, with Hernandez also coming in. The little Mexican is a brilliant finisher and will always be lurking around the opposition box looking to pick up any scraps that may fall his way. I would go as far as saying that United haven't had a poacher as good as Hernandez since Van Nistelrooy.

1.37pmElsewhere in the United side, Carrick has really excelled this season, with many fans saying that he has replaced Paul Scholes - high praise indeed. Kagawa and Valencia are capable of scoring and creating goals, while the defence is as strong as any in the league, especially now Vidic and Ferdinand are back playing together regularly. The sheer quality throughout United's lineup is the main reason that they are the champions-elect this season.

1.39pmSo, Stoke are up against it today and I'm afraid to say that the history books don't make great reading for them either. United have won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two sides, drawing the other. The last time that Stoke beat United was way back in 1984, when they triumphed 2-1.

1.41pmThe most recent match was a pretty eventful one for Rooney, who scored an own goal before scoring twice at the right end to help his side to a 4-2 win, Van Persie and Welbeck getting the other goals.

1.43pmThe last time that these two sides met at the Britannia Stadium, however, Stoke managed to come away with a 1-1 draw. Peter Crouch cancelled out Nani's opener on that occasion.

1.45pmOverall, Stoke and United have met each other 67 times, with the Red Devils coming out on top on 31 occasions to Stoke's 15 wins. The Potters won 11 of those at home, however, while only 12 of United's wins came away, so home advantage could prove key to Stoke's chances today.

1.47pmSpeaking of home advantage, Stoke have been as hard to beat as ever in front of their own fans this season. They have only lost three times at the Britannia, the fifth lowest tally in the league. One problem they have had is turning draws into wins, however. Their 16 home matches have yielded seven draws and just six wins.

1.49pm'Fortress Britannia' won't come under any bigger threats than this afternoon, though. United have the best away record in the Premier League this season, having lost just two games on their travels. They have also only drawn two, winning the remaining 11 to give them a very impressive points tally of 35 from 15 games.

1.51pmUPDATE: Quite a remarkable scoreline from St James' Park as Sunderland are beating Newcastle 3-0 in the Tyne Wear derby. That one is just about to finish, and be sure to keep an eye out for Di Canio's celebrations, and Vaughan's goal to make it 3-0. Well worth watching!

1.53pmThat scoreline will have quite an effect on Stoke, who will go below Sunderland in the table now. A point would be enough to see them move back into 14th, but a loss would make them bona-fide participants in this relegation battle.

1.55pmPREDICTION: Right, we're 10 minutes from kickoff at the Britannia, which means that it is time for the prediction! Stoke are notoriously hard to beat at home, but United's superior quality should be enough for them to win this match. The best I think Stoke can hope for is a draw, but even that will be an achievement. I'm going to go for a 2-0 win to United.

1.57pmThere have been reports suggesting that Tony Pulis will face the sack if he doesn't win this game today, which I think is ridiculous. We've seen some strange sacking this season, Nigel Adkins, Brian McDermott and Martin O'Neill come to mind, but if Pulis goes that could be the strangest yet. He led the team into the top division in 2008 and kept them there despite almost everyone tipping them for an immediate return to the Championship. His style may not be to everyone's tastes, but Pulis has worked wonders at Stoke.

1.59pmUPDATE: The Tyne-Wear derby is over, and what a huge win for Sunderland. You can read the match report of their 3-0 win, their first under Di Canio, here.

2.01pmSo, a reminder of Stoke's position now. After that result, the Potters will start today's match in 16th place level on points with Sunderland and Aston Villa, just three points from safety.

2.03pmRight, the teams are out and we're just going through the formalities of the handshakes. The wind is swirling around the Britannia ahead of a huge match for the Potters and, indeed, for United.

2.05pmWe're just about ready to go here.

0 minKICKOFF: Here we go! Stoke get us underway and the stadium is bouncing!

1 minRooney is playing in central midfield when Stoke have the ball here, but I'm sure he will push forward as soon as United get their feet on the ball for a prolonged period of time.

2 minToday will be a particular test for David de Gea in goal. The questions over his ability have subsided in recent months but he is still unsure under the high ball, and Stoke are high ball specialists. Just to make things harder for the United keeper, the wind inside the stadium will make the ball very hard to judge.

3 minGOAL! Stoke 0-1 Manchester United (Michael Carrick)

4 minOh what a messy goal that is! Straight out of the Stoke City scrapbook! Van Persie swings a corner in and the Potters fail to deal with it as it pinballs around the area. Phil Jones gets a slight touch to it before Carrick toe pokes it into the bottom corner. That one trickled over the line, but United won't care. It's a great start for them.

5 minThat is United's 100th goal in all competitions this season. Their strike force is one of the most impressive in world football, but in the end it was Carrick, with his first league goal of the season, who got the 100th!

6 minCHANCE! United have another corner and Stoke are obviously expecting a similar delivery to the one that provided the goal. However, Van Persie shakes things up a bit with a low cross that Evra meets, only to blaze his shot over the bar. Well worked move.

8 minThe referee draws the wrath of the home fans as Vidic flies over Jones to win a header. The crowd want a foul but, for me, that is a dominant header and very good defending.

9 minSHOT! Stoke have their first shot of the match, but it is not threatening the United goal. Shawcross sends a long ball up to Jones, who chests it down for Walters. The ball just doesn't sit up for him, however, and his shot is weak and bounces harmlessly wide.

10 minRooney is in fact playing in a strict central midfield role today. That is an interesting selection by Ferguson, especially with the likes of Cleverley - a central midfielder by trade - on the bench.

11 minSAVE! That is what Rooney can provide from the middle, though. He and Carrick exchange passes before the striker lets fly with a powerful strike from range. It is a good effort, but at a comfortable height for Begovic who punches it away.

13 minGood stat from Infostrada Sports coming up: "Carrick was the 18th different player to score a Premier League goal for United this season, the club’s outright most different scorers in a PL season."

14 minThe Stoke fans applaud as one for the full 14th minute in tribute to a young fan of the club. Great to see such solidarity at the club.

16 minBetter from Stoke as they finally start to press United high up the field, forcing Ferdinand to concede a throw in. That sort of pressure served Stoke very well earlier this season.

18 minShawcross hoists a high ball into the swirling wind and Vidic fouls Charlie Adam when trying to win the ball. The wind must have played a big part there as Vidic was quite far away from the ball.

19 minCLOSE! Unsurprisingly, Stoke's best moment of the match comes from a set piece. The ball is played into a dangerous area and Huth rises highest to plant a fine header just past De Gea's post. This is better from Stoke, and the home fans are responding to the improvement.

21 minUnited have dominated possession in this opening 20 minutes, enjoying 62% of the ball. Stoke have started to ease their way into it in the past five minutes or so, however, and they are beginning to make United look a little uncomfortable.

23 minUnited have another corner, their fourth of the match, and they have troubled Stoke from set pieces so far, surprising considering Stoke's physical presence in the box. This time Carrick meets it at the near post and flicks it goalwards, but it is never troubling Begovic.

25 minVan Persie pounces on a hint of hesitation by Adam in midfield, but his attempted lob from all over 40 yards out ends up a long way wide. Worth a go, though.

27 minAdam puts a decent enough ball into the box from a free kick, but all of the runners seem to have given up on it. In the end it is easy for United to clear, but with some pressure on the defence there it could have been tough for them to deal with.

29 minValencia gets goal-side of his man and surges to the byline before pulling it back towards Van Persie. He just doesn't put enough on his pass, however, and Stoke clear.

30 minA long ball into the area sees Jones flick it on to Adam, who takes a touch with his head before falling over inside the box. The fans want a penalty, but the ref is right to wave it away and United scramble clear.

31 minSAVE! United immediately embark on a counter-attack and the ball eventually finds its way to Van Persie. The Dutchman chooses to take his shot early, surprising Begovic who can only turn it behind for a corner.

33 minCharlie Adam bundles into Rooney on the edge of the box and United have a free kick in a good crossing position...

35 minRooney's ball into the box sees Hernandez flick a leg at it, but he is penalised for a high foot and has caught Wilkinson in the process. Walters isn't happy and Wilkinson has a cut eye as a result, but Hernandez was only going for the ball. Still, Nani was sent off for a similar challenge against Real Madrid.

37 minVan Persie flicks the ball over the defence and Hernandez threatens to race on to it, but Begovic is out quickly to act as a sweeper keeper and clear.

38 minWalters goes down in a heap under the challenge of Valencia, who trod on the Stoke player's foot. The referee gives him a talking to, and Stoke now have a free kick in a good crossing position...but it fails to beat the first man. Adam must do better there.

40 minStoke are really struggling to get it clear at the moment as everytime they try the ball gets caught up in the wind! United are starting to enjoy a good amount of possession, but Stoke are not giving them much time on the ball.

41 minUnited break free as Hernandez gives it to Kagawa, who races at the defence. Hernandez is looking to keep up with the midfielder but Shawcross looks to halt his run off the ball. Kagawa is eventually brought down, and United have a free kick about 35 yards from goal.

43 minCLOSE! After a long discussion between Van Persie and Rooney, it is the latter who takes on the free kick duties. His effort curls over the wall and has Begovic worried, but it ends up a yard or two wide of his right post.

44 minWilkinson bursts down the right and takes the ball past Kagawa and Carrick before firing an effort goalwards that Vidic does well to block. Wilkinson has never scored so that would have been some way to start!

45 minThere will be three minutes of added time at the end of this first half.

45+2 minStoke have their first corner of the match which De Gea comes out to punch. It isn't the most convincing of punches but he does the job. They eventually work the ball back down the right and Adam wins another corner, which Shawcross clips wide at the near post.

45+3 minHALF TIME: Stoke 0-1 Manchester United

2.55pmThe referee brings an end to an interesting half of football. United took the lead very early on with a scrappy goal that Tony Pulis will be upset at having conceded, but the Potters came into the match in the final 25 minutes or so of the half and they are not making things easy for United.

2.57pmThe opening 20 minutes or so were not what we have come to expect from Stoke in recent years. They weren't pressing United high up the pitch and the likes of Rooney and Carrick in midfield were given far too much space to work. Since then, the hosts have reverted back to their tried and tested style and have looked a much more imposing challenge because of it.

2.59pmWe haven't really seen a gilt-edge chance since the goal as both sides struggle to break the opposition down. The conditions are not helping either - it is very windy inside the Britannia. Stoke will have the wind behind them in the second period, though, which could really help their long throws and set pieces.

3.01pmUnited have not been at their best today. It was never going to be easy today, but as things stand they will go 15 points clear at the top of the table. It has often been said that the sign of champions is to win when you're not playing at your best, and that is exactly what United are doing at the moment.

3.03pmThey still could do with another goal here today, though. Stoke have looked quite threatening at times without really tested David de Gea. The longer it remains 1-0, the more the Potters will believe that they can get something out of this game.

3.05pmUnited certainly have the quality on the field to get that goal, with Hernandez and Van Persie up front. If Ferguson decides that he needs to go even more attacking he could move Rooney up front too. The England international is currently playing alongside Carrick in central midfield and he is doing so very well, but he will be itching to move further upfield, I'm sure.

3.07pmSo, what will the managers be saying to their teams at the break? Well, Pulis will want his side to start the second half as they finished the first. If they keep putting United under that kind of pressure then they could force a mistake and get a breakthrough.

3.09pmFerguson, meanwhile, will want his side to gain more control of the match. They dictated the tempo straight after taking the lead and Ferguson will want his side to do so again. Another goal would also be very welcome.

3.09pmThe teams are back out and we're about ready to restart this one.

45 minKICKOFF: Here we go again! We're back underway at the Britannia, and a big 45 minutes awaits both sides.

46 minRooney clips an early ball in towards the back post, but no-one is there to challenge it as Begovic comes to collect.

47 minShotton matches Evra the whole way down the flank, tracking his run before putting a hard but fair challenge on the full-back. Good work from Shotton there.

49 minIt hasn't been a very good start to this second half as both sides look for long balls over the top. Each time it is comfortably picked up by the defence.

50 minWilkinson no longer has a bandage around his head to stem the bloodflow from the cut he sustained in the first half. He had four stitches during the break, not his first stitches I'm sure!

52 minAdam turns on the ball and immediately swings a lovely cross into the box that Jones looks to attack. He just can't get his head to it, however, and United get it clear. That's a much better delivery from Adam.

53 minSHOT! Hernandez picks up a long ball and holds off a defender before spreading the ball to Van Persie, who has space in the box for the first time today. He takes a touch before trying to beat Begovic at his near post, only succeeding in finding the side netting.

54 minCHANCE! That's a decent chance for Stoke! Shotton nods a long ball down onto the corner of the six yard box where Walters has peeled away from Vidic. He is leaning back as he looks to volley it, however, sending it over the crossbar. Not an easy shot to take on but a good opening for the Potters.

56 minWilkinson puts a very heavy challenge on Hernandez, but only a throw in is given. Perhaps a bit of payback from the Stoke man there as it was Hernandez who inflicted the cut on him earlier in this game.

58 minSAVE! De Gea's first real save of the match is a comfortable one, but Stoke are starting to create more going forward now. This time play opens up for Adam, who can't see a pass on so goes for goal from 25 yards out. It is a decent strike and is on target, but De Gea will save them all day long.

60 minI think Charlie Adam has just gone for goal from inside his own half! I'm not sure whether it was a long ball forward that was over-hit or if he was really looking to use the wind to his advantage - I suspect the latter. Anyway, it is easy for De Gea to catch. He is one of the best shot-stopper around, you won't beat him from 60 yards!

61 minSHOT! Stoke have a hint of a counter attack for the first time today, but Jones wastes it. He makes space to shoot on the edge of the box but his effort is high and wide of De Gea's goal.

63 minYELLOW CARD! We have our first yellow card of the afternoon, and Valencia can have no complaints. Adam does well to win a free kick while under pressure from three players, but as he goes to take it quickly Valencia blocks it from close range.


65 minGOAL! Stoke 0-2 Manchester United (Robin van Persie)

66 minVan Persie finally breaks his recent scoring duck, and he is delighted with it! It was he who won the spot kick as he turned past Wilkinson in the box. The Stoke right-back slid in on the striker and brought him down, leaving the ref no choice but to award the penalty. Van Persie stepped up himself and put it right into the corner, past the despairing dive of Begovic. That could be game over.

68 minYou could see how much that goal meant to Van Persie by his celebrations. He went over and hugged Ferguson as well as celebrating with numerous members of the United bench. You can tell that he is relieved to have finally scored again.

69 minSAVE! Evra slips when trying to cut out a cross into the box, allowing Shotton to bring it down inside the area. He does so nicely, but his shot lacks the power and curl required to beat De Gea.

70 minPENALTY SHOUT! Stoke have a huge shout for a penalty of their own! Vidic slips under a long ball upfield and Jones, unaware that Vidic has gone down, trips over his body when inside the box. It was not an intentional foul by the United man, but he brought the striker down and that should probably be a penalty. Big moment in this match!

72 minSTOKE SUB: Tony Pulis makes a change as he looks to get back into this match. Off comes Geoff Cameron, and on comes Cameron Jerome.

74 minUnited are controlling this one now. They string together a lot of passes as they toy with Stoke, and I'm pretty sure every player has touched the ball in this move.

75 minKagawa releases Evra down the left with a fine pass with the outside of his boot. The full-back tries to find Van Persie in the box, but his low cross fails to beat the first man.

76 minSTOKE SUB: Here is a very interesting change for Stoke. On comes 33-year-old Michael Owen who may be making one of his last Premier League appearances here. There won't be many better ways to go out than to score against your old team. He replaces Walters.

77 minMANCHESTER UNITED SUB: Ferguson responds with an attacking change of his own as Danny Welbeck replaced Javier Hernandez.

79 minCharlie Adam is stopped in his tracks by Carrick before leaving a leg out to foul the United man in frustration. To complete it, he kicks the ball away, but the ref chooses not to book him.

80 minSAVE! De Gea makes a fine save to deny Charlie Adam. The Stoke man swings a free kick into a dangerous area but no-one gets a touch, causing De Gea to make a last-gasp dive to his left to claw it away as it threatened to go all the way through. Brilliant save.

82 minUnited have a corner but the wind is so strong that Van Persie can't get it to stay still! It keeps blowing away wherever he puts it! Eventually he makes a divot and puts the cross in towards Carrick, who flicks his header well wide.

83 minSTOKE SUB: Peter Crouch is coming on as the last throw of the dice for Pulis. He comes on for Jones, so we will have Crouch and Owen up front together again. They led the line for England once upon a time.

84 minSHOT! Ryan Shotton tries his luck from distance, but his powerful efforts soars well over the bar, much to the dismay of the home fans. They are getting increasingly annoyed here.

85 minYELLOW CARD! Cameron Jerome is eager to press high and win the ball back, but he goes too far on that occasion and slides in late on Vidic. He is given a yellow card for his troubles.

87 minSHOT! Whelan is the latest to go for goal from range as Stoke's belief begins to wane. They know that this match has floated away from them, just as Whelan's effort floats away from the goal, ending high in the stands.

89 minIf you don't laugh you cry...Shotton completely mis-kicks a cross and sends it out for a throw in. He can see the funny side of it and no doubt he will get a few comments thrown his way about that after the game. That was comical!

90 minThere will be three minutes of added time in this game. Can United get a third, or can Stoke get a late consolation goal?

90+2 minIt is important that Stoke hold out in these final moments as goal difference could very well come into the relegation battle, especially considering Sunderland's three-goal win earlier.

90+3 minFULL TIME: Stoke 0-2 Manchester United

3.58pmThe title edges ever closer for United as they comfortably see off Stoke. Goals from Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie were the difference today, but to be honest United were in control for most of the match. Stoke, meanwhile, remain in trouble at the bottom of the table. They still sit 16th, just three points clear of the bottom three.

4pmRight, that's it from me this afternoon. Thank you for joining Sports Mole for a comfortable win for United as they look set to claim their 20th league title. I will leave you with Robert Summerscales's match report, and be sure to stick around for match analysis, which will be on site within half an hour. Goodbye!

Stamford Bridge
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