Match ends, Manchester United 2, Stoke City 1.
- Home side earn fourth straight victory
- Stoke suffer third consecutive defeat
- Ex-United man Diouf nearly nicks late point
- Injured United skipper Rooney misses out
Manchester United continued their revival with a fourth successive win that strengthens their place in the Premier League top four.
The home side led when Marouane Fellaini headed in Ander Herrera's left-wing cross at the far post.
Stoke equalised through Steven N'Zonzi's low shot, but they slipped to a third straight loss when Juan Mata's free-kick from the right sneaked in.
Stoke's Mame Biram Diouf was twice denied an injury-time equaliser.
The 26-year-old Stoke forward, who had an undistinguished spell at Old Trafford earlier in his career, saw United keeper David De Gea claw out his header before emergency full-back Ashley Young cleared another effort off the line seconds later.
Diouf was left mystified by his failure to earn a point for the visitors, shaking his head in disbelief as he slowly trudged off the pitch at the final whistle.
A draw would have been harsh on United, who controlled the game throughout but had to rely on a piece of fortune for the winner.
Mata's set-piece evaded every player waiting in the penalty area before finding the net, although team-mate Marcos Rojo claimed he got the final touch with his head.
United boss Louis van Gaal will not be too bothered who scored. The Dutchman's team continue to build momentum, despite failing to turn almost 65% of possession into more goals.
|The Red Devils have won four consecutive Premier League games for just the second time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. They achieved the same feat in December 2013.||The Potters have lost four of their last five away from home in the Premier League, their only success coming in a 2-1 win at Tottenham on 9 November.|
|Marouane Fellaini's two league goals for Manchester United this season have come in evening kick-offs.||Stoke scored with their only shot of the first half against Manchester United.|
Skipper Wayne Rooney and Angel Di Maria were both missing from United's squad through injuries sustained against Hull on Saturday.
And for long periods, the home side missed the pair's attacking guile.
Stoke rarely looked like ending a dismal run of 11 successive Old Trafford defeats, though, until Diouf and substitute Marko Arnautovic went close in the final moments.
Old Trafford lost some of its famed 'fear factor' last season as United slumped to seven home Premier League defeats in a terrible first campaign following Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.
That aura of invincibility appears to have returned under Van Gaal, whose team have taken 19 home points from a possible 21 since defeat by Swansea on the opening day.
Potters boss Mark Hughes indicated his side would not be afraid to "have a go" at United, but they rarely looked like carving open a makeshift home defence until stoppage time.
United controlled the tempo and deservedly led when Herrera was allowed too much time and space to pick out Fellaini, who outjumped Erik Pieters to powerfully nod in.
Hughes was furious with the space that his side allowed Herrera, but his demeanour changed when N'Zonzi calmly guided a 20-yard shot past De Gea with Stoke's first attempt on goal.
But then Mata's intervention moved United within two points of second-placed Manchester City, who travel to Sunderland on Wednesday, while 13th-placed Stoke remain four points above the relegation zone.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal:
"It was not our best performance. We were not aggressive enough in the first half, we didn't keep our position on the pitch. I was not pleased at half-time - and I told them (the players). The second half was better, we created more chances but we need to score more goals.
"Then Peter Crouch comes on, you know the long balls are coming and it is always difficult. But I'm pleased we held this result. The last few moments were not necessary, but it is always like that. We have struggled until the end in the Premier League. It is common.
"I'm happy with the result. Tomorrow we have a Christmas party and it's important we enjoy that."
Stoke manager Mark Hughes:
"On the balance of play, we were very much in the game, especially in the first half. It was a really good performance and we picked ourselves up from the disappointment of conceding early on.
"We are disappointed with the award of the second goal. We clearly think it is offside. It doesn't matter if he (Rojo) touches it, he is clearly offside and interfering with play.
"He was ahead of the ball in an offside position. The referee and assistant should have cancelled that out. We didn't allow that to affect us but the episodes at the end... it was unbelievable, demonstrating the sort of luck we are having at the moment."
- 1de Gea
- 25A Valencia
- 18YoungBooked at 90mins
- 8MataSubstituted forJanuzajat 90+2'minutes
- 21HerreraBooked at 60minsSubstituted forFletcherat 86'minutes
- 49WilsonSubstituted forFalcaoat 78'minutes
- 20van Persie
- 2BardsleyBooked at 41mins
- 12WilsonBooked at 90mins
- 3PietersBooked at 58mins
- 7IrelandBooked at 72minsSubstituted forArnautovicat 82'minutes
- 24AssaidiSubstituted forCrouchat 77'minutes
- Jonathan Moss
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Manchester United 2, Stoke City 1.
Marc Wilson (Stoke City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Falcao (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Marc Wilson (Stoke City).
Attempt blocked. Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City) right footed shot from very close range is blocked.
Attempt saved. Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Offside, Manchester United. Antonio Valencia tries a through ball, but Robin van Persie is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Phil Bardsley with a headed pass.
Substitution, Manchester United. Adnan Januzaj replaces Juan Mata.
Ashley Young (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Ashley Young (Manchester United).
Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).
Bojan (Stoke City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Peter Crouch (Stoke City).
Foul by Robin van Persie (Manchester United).
Phil Bardsley (Stoke City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Substitution, Manchester United. Darren Fletcher replaces Ander Herrera.