Manchester United 2-0 Stoke

By Neil JohnstonBBC Sport
Hernandez's penalty strike was his 27th goal for United
Hernandez's penalty strike was his 27th goal for United

Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov both scored from the penalty spot as Manchester United beat Stoke to go level on points with Manchester City.

United were without 11 players, including Wayne Rooney, and gave a Premier League debut to third-choice keeper Ben Amos.

But Hernandez broke the deadlock after Jermaine Pennant fouled Park Ji-sung before Berbatov doubled the lead.

A foul by Jonathan Walters on Antonio Valencia was punished by the striker.

With Chelsea and Liverpool providing the opposition in the next two league games, it was vital United bounced back from their FA Cup exit at the weekend.

Man Utd 2-0 Stoke: Ferguson pleased with 'confident' display

And although this was far from a vintage performance, Sir Alex Ferguson's injury-hit side did enough to secure maximum points.

Stoke's record at Old Trafford, a venue where they have not won for 36 years, suggested this should have been a straightforward exercise for Ferguson's side.

Yet for long periods of the first half it was anything but as United, missing Rooney for the second successive game, appeared to suffer a hangover from the last-gasp defeat at Liverpool.

Fortunately for Ferguson's team, Stoke lacked any cutting edge in attack as Amos was forced into just one save as he started a top-flight game for United for the first time - David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard having been ruled out by illness and injury respectively.

Bizarrely, United had scored in the 27th minute in each of their last three meetings with Stoke.

Yet despite dominating possession, they failed to seriously test Thomas Sorensen in the opening half-hour, Paul Scholes's attempt from outside the area the closest they came to finding the net.

By then Jonathan Walters and Kenwyne Jones had attempted to test Amos from distance - both efforts flying wide of the target.

United had hardly threatened when they opened the scoring seven minutes before the interval after the move of the match.

Good work by Berbatov, starting for the first time since 4 January, and Scholes released Park inside the area, Pennant leaving referee Mike Jones with no choice but to point to the spot after lunging in on the South Korean.

Man Utd 2-0 Stoke: Pulis questions penalty decisions

Hernandez, who had not started since the 3-2 home defeat to Blackburn on 31 December, kept his composure to beat Thomas Sorensen from the spot before United thought they should have had a second penalty when Robert Huth appeared to handle Hernandez's cross.

This time Jones was not interested but the official did award another penalty when Walters fouled Valencia - the fourth spot-kick the Cheshire official has given in his last two games.

Sorensen guessed the right way but was still beaten as Berbatov drilled home his first goal of 2012 home in the 53rd minute.

United should have won by a more handsome margin with Berbatov guilty of spurning a fine chance following Valencia's cut-back in stoppage time.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "We played a lot of good football and scored two penalties while we could have had two more.

"(Paul) Pogba did really well when he came on. You can't believe he's only 18-years-old. We're negotiating his contract at the moment, but it's a bit complicated because he's changed his agent.

"As for Ben Amos, he's got potential. He never flapped at anything."

Stoke manager Tony Pulis: "It's always difficult coming here. We were playing one of the best teams - if not the best team - and we have got to keep the ball a little bit better and get up the pitch.

"Looking at them there (the penalties), they are very debatable but we are at Old Trafford."

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