MANCHESTER, England – Manchester United overcame its long injury list to go level on points with crosstown rival Manchester City atop the Premier League standings after Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov scored a penalty each for a routine 2-0 win over Stoke on Tuesday.
Alex Ferguson’s team was without 11 senior players, including both first-choice keepers, but had little trouble against a lacklustre Stoke side.
Hernandez slotted in from the spot in the 38th to put the hosts ahead and Berbatov added the second in the 53rd as an injury-depleted United took advantage of crosstown rival City’s 1-0 loss at Everton and now only trails the leader by goal difference.
Stoke rarely threatened as United goalkeeper Ben Amos comfortably earned a clean sheet on his Premier League debut, filling in for the injured David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard.
United also struggled going forward initially, with only Antonio Valencia looking likely to break Stoke down with both Nani and Ashley Young on the sick list as well as Wayne Rooney.
At 37 and fresh out of retirement, Paul Scholes was being asked to start his second game in four days. The veteran midfielder came close to breaking the deadlock with a shot that flicked wide off Wilson Palacios.
United finally went ahead when Park Ji-sung raced onto a short pass from Scholes and drew a reckless tackle from Jermaine Pennant.
Hernandez found the bottom corner with a nerveless effort from the spot, sending Thomas Sorensen the wrong way.
Robert Huth got away with handling Hernandez’s cross just before the break but seven minutes after the restart, United was awarded a second spot kick when Jon Walters bundled Valencia over.
Despite the clinical nature of Hernandez’s previous effort, this time Berbatov assumed the responsibility, beating Sorensen with a shot to the bottom corner as the Sorensen went the right way.