Stoke City vs. Manchester United  0 - 2

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Vidic can see the finish line for United

16 April 2013 01:47

Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic has warned that the Red Devils must remain focused as they close in on the Premier League crown.

Sir Alex Ferguson's team are 15 points clear of Manchester City, who have a game in hand, at the top of the table with six matches to play.

Sunday's 2-0 win over Stoke City was United's eighth victory in their past nine league fixtures and Vidic believes that they will enter the final run-in full of confidence.

"Yes, you think you're almost there but you have to win the games," the centre-back told MUTV.

"(Winning at Stoke) helps us build up the confidence and a few players had a great game - people like Antonio (Valencia), Wayne (Rooney) and Robin (van Persie).

"It's important for players like this to be in good form for the games to come."

United face West Ham at Upton Park on Wednesday and Vidic is expecting another physical encounter after coming through a similar test against Stoke.

"Stoke is always a difficult place to go to but we fought for every ball, played some good football and, in the end, I think we deserved to win," he added.

"It was physical. You know they're going to get the ball to the forwards, they're good at set-pieces, they're going to challenge defenders.

"Now it's West Ham and we have to play well again. They play in a similar style to Stoke - we're going to have long balls and set-pieces to deal with."

Article

Premier League preview: West Ham United v Manchester United

15 April 2013 11:16

Manchester United's charge to a 20th Premier League title continues on Wednesday when they take on West Ham United at Upton Park.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side are currently 15 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City and need just seven points from their final six games to clinch yet another piece of silverware.

A 2-0 win over Stoke City on the weekend ended a rare two-game winless streak for the Red Devils with striker Robin Van Persie scoring his first goal in 10 matches in the process.

West Ham will head into the clash off the back of a 1-1 draw with Southampton which essentially sealed their place in the Premier League next season.

England striker Andy Carroll scored his third goal in two Premier League games at St Mary's and could pose problems for a United defence that has been beset by injuries recently.

Captain Nemanja Vidic (calf) is in a race to be fit for Wednesday's clash with Chris Smalling also in doubt.

Veteran Paul Scholes could make a long awaited return from a knee injury that has kept him sidelined since January while Ashley Young continues to recover from an ankle injury.

Sam Allardyce's side are not without their own injury problems with Joe Cole flying to America last weekend to receive specialist treatment on his hamstring problem while George McCartney (knee), Winston Reid (hip) and Mark Noble (shoulder) will all remain on the sidelines.

The two sides last met in the third round of the FA Cup, with United winning 1-0 in a replay at Old Trafford.

West Ham nearly registered a memorable victory in the third round proper before conceding in the dying minutes in a 2-2 draw at Upton Park.

Article

Angry Pulis slams sack threats

14 April 2013 19:05

Stoke manager Tony Pulis has angrily dismissed reports that his job was on the line after the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United.

Pulis was said to be heading for the sack if Stoke were heavily beaten by champions-in-waiting United on Sunday.

But after being asked about the report, he hit back: "Is that the same person who wrote that the manager of Leicester was going to leave six months ago?"

Pulis was also in defiant mood about his team's prospects of surviving – despite seeing defeat plunge Stoke to within two places and three points of the drop zone following Sunderland's lunchtime win at Newcastle.

"We have to stay positive and focussed," he stressed.

"What's gone is gone. We have to look forward to the next game and the next game.

"I've spoken to the players and it's a five-game season now that we have got Manchester United out of the way.

"The season really starts for us now and it's very important we remain positive."

Defeat left Stoke with one win in their last 14, while title-bound United have lost just once in their last 20.

Delighted United manager Alex Ferguson admitted he enjoyed the celebrations when Robin van Persie scored the second from the penalty spot at the Britannia Stadium.

Following the successful spot kick, Van Persie rushed to the bench to enjoy the moment with his team-mates and Ferguson.

"He nearly killed me, he forgets I’m 71," Ferguson told Sky Sports.

"It was a great celebration because it brings together the emotions of the fans and players. We really did celebrate that.

"We say this about all strikers you go through spells where you don’t score and you don’t think you’re ever going to get a goal and you’re going to miss.

"It was a really important goal and there were two or three things about it. He did really good work from Wayne’s pass to get brought down for the penalty, the ball moved off the spot and then the composure to settle himself and then the perfect penalty low and hard into the corner."

Sir Alex opted to play Wayne Rooney in a central midfield position and that move appeared to pay off with the England international a key presence in the heart of the United side throughout.

"I thought Wayne was brilliant. He needs a different role to get his confidence back," Ferguson said.

"He's had a bit of criticism, not a serious amount but nevertheless there's a few doubters out there and it’s our job to get that confidence and form back and a spell in midfield will do him and us good."

Article

Van Persie relieved to end goal drought

14 April 2013 18:49

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie says he was relieved to end a 10-game goalless run in his club's 2-0 win over Stoke on Sunday.

The Netherlands forward tucked home a second-half penalty after he was felled by Andy Wilkinson to wrap up all three points for the league leaders and bring to an end a dry spell stretching back to United's 2-0 win over Everton in mid-February.

"Everybody could see that I was quite relieved and happy," he told the BBC after the match.

"It was all about the win but I like to score goals."

Following the successful spot kick, Van Persie rushed to the bench to enjoy the moment with his team-mates and manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Van Persie embraced Ferguson after his goal, and the Scot said he enjoyed the moment.

"He nearly killed me, he forgets I'm 71," the United boss told Sky Sports.

"It was a great celebration because it brings together the emotions of the fans and players. We really did celebrate that."

Article

Premier League: Stoke 0 Manchester United 2

14 April 2013 17:24

Manchester United moved a step closer to regaining the Premier League title with a 2-0 win at lowly Stoke on Sunday.

An early goal from Michael Carrick and a second-half Robin van Persie penalty wrapped up all three points for Sir Alex Ferguson's men, but they were rarely troubled by a disappointing Stoke who are now more deeply embroiled in the relegation fight to stay in England's top flight.

It took just four minutes for the champions-elect to take the lead, as the Potters failed miserably to clear a van Persie corner.

After several hacks at the ball by the home defenders, it eventually fell to Carrick, who toe-poked into the corner of the net from the edge of the six-yard box.

It was United's 100th goal of the season in all competitions, but they did not look like adding to that tally for the rest of the half.

In fact, a Robert Huth header from a free-kick aside, neither team created any opportunities of note in what was an uninspiring first 45 minutes.

The second started much brighter, however, with the visitors' attacking trio of Wayne Rooney, van Persie and Chicharito forming a dangerous unit and causing several problems to Stoke's backline.

The home side also improved their intensity and created several half-chances, notably when Jonathan Walters blazed over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box just 10 minutes into the second half.

Strikes from distance from Charlie Adam and Kenwyne Jones also forced David de Gea into action on the hour mark, but five minutes later the game was up as United were awarded a penalty.

It came after defender Andy Wilkinson clumsily felled van Persie in the area, and the Dutch striker stepped up to place the spot kick past a helpless Begovic to double the visitors' advantage, and end a personal Premier League barren spell dating back to mid-February.

The game looked to be up for Stoke, but with 10 minutes left they stirred into action, and almost got themselves back into the contest through captain Ryan Shawcross.

The defender found himself free at the far post and launched himself at an Adam free kick, but de Gea reacted sharply to turn his effort around the post.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis threw on Peter Crouch and former United striker Michael Owen in the closing stages in a bid to mount an unlikely comeback, but the Potters failed to muster any real openings for their former England strike partnership, and slipped to a second consecutive home defeat.

Article

Premier League preview: Stoke v Manchester United

12 April 2013 15:00

Manchester United are in pole position to reclaim their Premier League crown but a second successive loss would send jitters through the camp.

United head to Stoke on Sunday, having had their lead on top of the table reduced after falling to a 2-1 defeat against Manchester rivals and defending champions City on Monday.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men are 12 points clear at the summit with seven games to go, and remain in the box seat to capture a record 20th title.

But having already bowed out of the Champions League and FA Cup in the past month, United midfielder Antonio Valencia says the club is determined to secure the title as soon as possible.

"We're a little worried. It has already happened to us," Valencia told Ecuadorian radio station Sonorama.

"Last year, having eight points with seven games to go we lost the league, and now we have seven games and 12 points, we don't want this to happen again.

"We want to finish off the two games that are coming as soon as possible, starting off in the right way and ending up victorious."

United have not tasted defeat on the road since their surprise 1-0 loss to Norwich in November last year, a run stretching eight games.

And they will be buoyed by Stoke's recent form that has them embroiled in a relegation scrap.

After starting the season brightly, losing just three of their first 20 matches, Tony Pulis' men have been on a steady decline, sitting just three points clear of the drop zone.

The 2011 FA Cup finalists are in the midst of a six-game winless run after Saturday's loss at the hands of relegation rivals Aston Villa, and have recorded only one win in their past 13 outings.

Stoke's head-to-head record against United doesn't make for good reading either, having never won a Premier League match against the Red Devils, losing eight of their nine previous meetings in England's top flight.

Article

Ferguson flags Vidic return, Young out

12 April 2013 11:58

Nemanja Vidic will return to training on Friday, but Ashley Young is out for two weeks, according to Manchester United's Alex Ferguson.

The United manager also revealed that Jonny Evans was back in full training this week following an injury he picked up at Sunderland in March, while Evans' fellow defender Chris Smalling could only manage light fitness work.

Paul Scholes, who has taken longer to recovery from a routine knee procedure than was expected, is scheduled to train on Monday.

"I'm hoping Vida will start training (Friday)," Ferguson told reporters ahead of United's game away to Stoke City on Sunday.

"Jonny Evans has trained this week, which is better news than we had building up to Monday's game.

"Ashley Young is out - he got a sore whack on his ankle and is maybe out for two weeks. Other than that, we're in good shape in terms of player availability.

"Chris Smalling started running this week and Paul Scholes will start training with the first team on Monday. He's done a fair bit in the last week or so and it will be a terrific boost to get his football intelligence back in the squad. He's been out for a few weeks now so he'll need a good bit of training with us."

United go to Stoke's Britannia Stadium on the back of Manchester derby defeat at the hands of City last Monday, and the importance of gaining a positive result is not lost on Ferguson.

"We have a job to do," he said.

"The incentives are there for ourselves in the sense of we've only got seven games left.

"The challenge is there for Stoke as well. I don't think they will go down but, nonetheless, they're in a precarious situation because, down the bottom of that league, you don't pick up a lot of points. I think they'll get enough to get out.

"I don't think we should look at our position in terms of being 12 points clear.

"As we always do, we should just try to do our best. We have a job to do on Sunday and we need to do it."

"It's always a difficult place to go, but we have a job to do. Stoke have a great support, probably one of the noisiest in the league.

"You know you're always going to get a hard game at Stoke. That will never change."

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 38 +43 89
2 38 +32 78
3 38 +36 75
4 38 +35 73
5 38 +20 72
6 38 +15 63
7 38 +28 61
8 38 -4 49
9 38 -4 46
10 38 -8 46
11 38 -17 44
12 38 -10 43
13 38 -11 42
14 38 -11 41
15 38 -22 41
16 38 -23 41
17 38 -13 39
18 38 -26 36
19 38 -30 28
20 38 -30 25