United go three points clear in race for title

MANCHESTER UNITED 2 vs STOKE CITY 1

MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson has told his players to ignore the criticism and focus on recapturing the Premier League title.

Splendid goals from Javier Hernandez and Nani, which came either side of Dean Whitehead’s surprise equaliser, helped United open up a three point lead over Manchester City at the top of the table.

Despite that healthy outlook, United have failed to sparkle in their usual manner, not that their manager is concerned. Ferguson feels the best answer is for United to carry on as they are.

“We are an easy target for that kind of thing,” he said.” But we just have to dismiss it and concentrate on our ambitions and that is to win the league.”

Ferguson opted to rest Wayne Rooney last night and it was his replacement, Hernandez, who set United on their way with a superbly taken 27th minute opener.

United worked the ball out to the right wing and Nani’s low cross was audaciously flicked home at the near post by the Mexican, whose determination saw him beat Ryan Shawcross to the ball.

Stoke had offered nothing as an attacking force in the first-half, but stunned the home crowd five minutes after the restart when Whitehead, unmarked, headed home Tuncay’s cross for his side’s first goal at Old Traffrod in 30 years.

Parity lasted just 12 minutes, however, with Nani finding the top corner with a left-footed rocket after he’d been fed by Hernandez.

The summer signing from Guadalajara was United’s brightest spark in another workmanlike team performance and his manager hailed his contribution.

Ferguson (inset) said: “He gives me a problem when Wayne is fit.

“But that is the kind of problem you want. Over the years, the strikers I have had have always given me that problem.

“That is Chico’s job. And as long as he keeps putting the ball in the net, he is giving me those problems.”