Wayne Rooney recovered from scoring an own goal to strike twice and earn Manchester United victory over Stoke.
In a seesaw game that was in keeping with United's performances this season, Rooney nodded into his own net to give Stoke the lead and then equalised from another header before the break.
Once Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck were on target to give United the advantage, it looked like it would be a comfortable victory for the hosts.
But there were again question marks about their defence as Michael Kightly ran at Rio Ferdinand to make it 3-2 before Rooney restored a two-goal cushion with a simple finish for his 200th club goal.
The goals were Rooney's first for his club this season, and came after he scored three times for England on international duty with Welbeck also getting his first club goal this term.
And the attacking trio of Rooney, Welbeck and Van Persie once again papered over the cracks as United chalked up their ninth win in 10 games and remain four points behind league leaders Chelsea.
But ahead of the clash between the top two at Stamford Bridge next Sunday, the west Londoners will have watched with interest as Stoke caused problems in the first half during an entertaining game.
The occasion was already noteworthy before kick-off when Ferdinand decided not to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt, contrary to Sir Alex Ferguson's hopes on Friday when he stated that football should remain united in its battle to fight racism in the game.
United appeared to be in control early on with Paul Scholes, making his 400th Premier League start, seeing plenty of the ball on his return to the side.
But it was the midfielder's foul on Kightly which led to the opener. Ryan Shawcross was lurking but Rooney unwittingly converted Charlie Adam's cross with David De Gea nowhere to be seen.
Man Utd's defensive frailty
Manchester United have conceded seven goals in their four Premier League home matches this season - their most at this stage of a top-flight season under Sir Alex Ferguson and most in 36 years, since they also conceded seven in their first four home matches in 1976-77.
Adam then almost doubled the lead when he fired in a near-post effort, but De Gea clawed his shot away and for a period Stoke were on top with Walters also going close after a flowing move.
Much of that was down to Adam, who was quick to link up with Peter Crouch and put plenty of pressure on Scholes. It was a familiar picture for the quiet home supporters, at that stage, who have seen their team go behind in seven of 11 games this season.
Ferguson has already admitted this term that the attack is the strongest part of his team, and once they started to find their rhythm and movement, the Potters struggled to contain them.
Welbeck had already shot wide before Rooney got the equaliser, and the England forward's first official Premier League goal of the season was created by a superb fizzing cross from Van Persie.
That led to a sustained spell of pressure with the Dutch striker at its heart, and following decent opportunities for Rooney, Welbeck and Scholes, Van Persie steered in Antonio Valencia's driven cross to give United a half-time lead.
It was no more than the hosts deserved and Stoke were caught napping after the break when they allowed Rooney acres of space to pick out Welbeck.
Jonny Evans, who largely kept Crouch at bay, almost made it 4-1 a minute later, but Asmir Begovic stopped the Northern Irishman's close-range header and it looked at that point as if the hosts would cruise to a comfortable victory.
But that is not how it has worked with United recently, and as Ferdinand backed off, Kightly ran at the hosts' defence to squeeze a shot in.
Fortunately for Ferguson's side, Stoke again switched off and Rooney restored the two goal advantage by tucking in at the back post following a corner just past the hour mark.
It was a relief for the Old Trafford crowd, but Ferguson's side will have to tighten up in defence ahead of next Sunday's clash with Chelsea, who will give them a far greater test.
- 01 De Gea
- 02 Rafael
- 03 Evra
- 05 Ferdinand
- 06 Evans
- 07 Valencia (Nani - 74' )
- 16 Carrick
- 22 Scholes Booked (Anderson - 70' )
- 10 Rooney
- 19 Welbeck (Hernandez - 78' )
- 20 Van Persie
- 13 Lindegaard
- 31 Wootton
- 08 Anderson
- 11 Giggs
- 17 Nani
- 25 Powell
- 14 Hernandez
- 01 Begovic
- 02 Cameron
- 04 Huth
- 12 Wilson
- 17 Shawcross
- 15 Nzonzi
- 16 Adam
- 18 Whitehead (Palacios - 86' )
- 21 Kightly Booked (Owen - 74' )
- 19 Walters (Etherington - 70' )
- 25 Crouch
- 29 Sorensen
- 20 Upson
- 28 Wilkinson
- 08 Palacios
- 26 Etherington
- 09 Jones
- 10 Owen
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee ends the match.90:00 +2:25
The ball is swung over by Matthew Etherington, blocked by Oliveira Anderson.90:00 +1:02
A cross is delivered by Charlie Adam, save by David De Gea.85:55
Unfair challenge on Patrice Evra by Peter Crouch results in a free kick. David De Gea restarts play with the free kick.85:26
Corner taken by Charlie Adam from the left by-line, Patrice Evra manages to make a clearance.85:06 Substitution
Substitution Wilson Palacios on for Dean Whitehead.80:20
Charlie Adam takes a inswinging corner to the near post.79:43
Rio Ferdinand challenges Peter Crouch unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Charlie Adam from left channel, clearance by Rio Ferdinand.77:03
Free kick crossed by Charlie Adam, Robin van Persie makes a clearance. Shot from outside the area by Marc Wilson misses to the left of the goal.77:03 Substitution
Substitution Danny Welbeck goes off and Javier Hernandez comes on.77:03
Free kick awarded for a foul by Rafael Da Silva on Matthew Etherington.75:18
The assistant referee flags for offside against Luis Nani. Free kick taken by Asmir Begovic.73:43 Substitution
Substitution Luis Nani is brought on as a substitute for Antonio Valencia.73:17 Substitution
Substitution Michael Kightly leaves the field to be replaced by Michael Owen.73:07
The ball is crossed by Geoff Cameron, blocked by Oliveira Anderson.69:28 Substitution
Substitution Jonathan Walters leaves the field to be replaced by Matthew Etherington.69:28 Substitution
Substitution Oliveira Anderson is brought on as a substitute for Paul Scholes.69:11
Effort on goal by Robin van Persie from just inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.66:14
Rafael Da Silva fouled by Peter Crouch, the ref awards a free kick. Rafael Da Silva takes the free kick.64:39
The assist for the goal came from Danny Welbeck.
Goal! - Wayne Rooney - Man Utd 4 - 2 Stoke Wayne Rooney fires in a goal from close range to the bottom left corner of the goal. Man Utd 4-2 Stoke.64:24
Robin van Persie takes a inswinging corner.63:11
Robin van Persie fouled by Robert Huth, the ref awards a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Wayne Rooney from left channel, Robert Huth manages to make a clearance.62:44
Free kick awarded for a foul by Marc Wilson on Antonio Valencia. Wayne Rooney restarts play with the free kick.57:58
Assist on the goal came from Steven Nzonzi.57:58 Goal scored
Goal! - Michael Kightly - Man Utd 3 - 2 Stoke Michael Kightly grabs a goal from inside the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Man Utd 3-2 Stoke.55:05
Centre by Rafael Da Silva.54:20
Foul by Dean Whitehead on Danny Welbeck, free kick awarded. Paul Scholes restarts play with the free kick.52:52
Antonio Valencia takes a shot. Save made by Asmir Begovic.48:59
Corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie, save made by Asmir Begovic.48:25
Jonathan Evans takes a shot. Asmir Begovic makes a save.47:38
Short corner taken by Robin van Persie.45:52
Assist on the goal came from Wayne Rooney.45:52 Goal scored
Goal! - Danny Welbeck - Man Utd 3 - 1 Stoke Danny Welbeck scores a headed goal from close range. Man Utd 3-1 Stoke.45:01
The referee starts the second half.45:00 +2:10 Half time
Half Time The match has reached half-time.45:00 +1:23
Corner taken by Charlie Adam from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance by Robin van Persie.45:00 +0:36
Jonathan Walters fouled by Paul Scholes, the ref awards a free kick. Direct strike on goal from the free kick comes in from Robert Huth, Rafael Da Silva gets a block in.43:54
The assist for the goal came from Antonio Valencia.43:54 Goal scored
Goal! - Robin van Persie - Man Utd 2 - 1 Stoke Robin van Persie finds the back of the net with a goal from close range to the bottom left corner of the goal. Man Utd 2-1 Stoke.41:57
Patrice Evra delivers the ball, Asmir Begovic makes a comfortable save.40:44
Direct free kick taken by Charlie Adam.40:44 Booking
Booking Paul Scholes booked.40:38
Paul Scholes gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Dean Whitehead.39:38
Foul by Rafael Da Silva on Peter Crouch, free kick awarded. Marc Wilson takes the free kick.38:58
Danny Welbeck takes a shot.38:09
Paul Scholes takes a shot. Ryan Shawcross gets a block in.37:38
Foul by Antonio Valencia on Jonathan Walters, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Steven Nzonzi.35:21
Wayne Rooney takes a shot. Save made by Asmir Begovic.32:25
A cross is delivered by Robin van Persie, comfortable save by Asmir Begovic.31:08
Rafael Da Silva challenges Michael Kightly unfairly and gives away a free kick. Charlie Adam delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right channel.28:38
Direct free kick taken by Rafael Da Silva.28:38 Booking
Booking The referee shows Michael Kightly a yellow card.28:27
Free kick awarded for a foul by Michael Kightly on Rafael Da Silva.26:55
Assist on the goal came from Robin van Persie.26:55 Goal scored
Goal! - Wayne Rooney - Man Utd 1 - 1 Stoke Wayne Rooney scores a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Man Utd 1-1 Stoke.26:53
The ball is crossed by Robin van Persie,23:53
Jonathan Walters takes a shot. David De Gea makes a save.20:28
Effort on goal by Danny Welbeck from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.19:49
Charlie Adam produces a cross, clearance made by Patrice Evra.19:12
Robin van Persie is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Asmir Begovic.17:46
Effort on goal by Patrice Evra from just inside the penalty area goes over the target.17:05
Peter Crouch takes a shot. David De Gea makes a comfortable save.16:14
Peter Crouch gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Patrice Evra. Jonathan Evans restarts play with the free kick.15:41
Michael Carrick gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Dean Whitehead. Direct free kick taken by Marc Wilson.12:08
Charlie Adam takes a shot. David De Gea makes a save.10:43
Assist by Charlie Adam.10:43 Goal scored
Goal! - Wayne Rooney - Man Utd 0 - 1 Stoke Own goal by Wayne Rooney. Man Utd 0-1 Stoke.10:06
Paul Scholes concedes a free kick for a foul on Michael Kightly. Charlie Adam delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right by-line.9:33
Michael Kightly delivers the ball, clearance made by Jonathan Evans.8:33
Foul by Dean Whitehead on Paul Scholes, free kick awarded. Rio Ferdinand restarts play with the free kick.6:33
Robert Huth challenges Wayne Rooney unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Paul Scholes.5:49
Effort on goal by Charlie Adam from just inside the penalty box goes harmlessly over the target.4:51
Charlie Adam sends in a cross, David De Gea makes a save.3:52
Rio Ferdinand fouled by Peter Crouch, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Rio Ferdinand.2:44
Robin van Persie is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Asmir Begovic takes the free kick.0:27
Paul Scholes has shot on goal from just outside the area which goes wide of the right-hand upright.0:00
The game kicks-off.
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