Robin van Persie ends his scoring drought with a 20th Premier League goal of the season to secure Manchester United a 2-0 victory over struggling Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
The Dutch striker, United’s top scorer this season, had not found the back of the net for his club for two months and nine matches. But with United already a goal up courtesy of Michael Carrick’s early strike, Van Persie converted a penalty midway through the second half to seal the three points.
The victory takes United back to 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League over Manchester City. Their neighbors, who came out on top in the Manchester derby last Monday, are not involved in league action this weekend.
For Stoke, the defeat pours further misery on Tony Pulis’s side. The Potters have now lost three matches on the bounce in the league and have gone seven games without claiming a victory. Just three points and two places now separates Stoke from the relegation zone, with third-from-bottom Wigan Athletic having two games in hand.
In desperate need of a confidence boost, Stoke got the worst possible start on Sunday, as they fell behind after just four minutes. Likely to disappoint Pulis even more is that the goal came from a set piece, one of Stoke’s traditional strengths under his leadership.
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But from United’s first corner, Van Persie whipped the ball in from the right and Stoke failed on more than one occasion to get the ball clear before Carrick poked the ball low into the corner past Asmir Begovic from six yards out.
That’s how the scoreline remained for some time as United continued their recent trend of just doing enough against weaker opposition without truly impressing. Wayne Rooney had two fierce efforts, one saved by Begovic and another from a free-kick that just went wide of the target.
Bit in the 66th minute the points were all but secured as United took a 2-0 advantage. Van Persie was again heavily involved as he maneuvered his way into the box before feinting back inside Andy Wilkinson, who committed himself to a clumsy sliding challenge that caught the standing leg of the Dutchman to take him to the ground.
Van Persie picked himself up and slid his penalty low into Begovic’s bottom left-hand corner before running off to embrace manager Sir Alex Ferguson.