Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos, click on the statistics tab for match stats; manager reaction below
Manchester United moved a step closer to regaining the Barclays Premier League title with a comfortable victory at the Britannia Stadium.
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 Stoke side who are more deeply embroiled in the relegation fight.
It took just four minutes for the league leaders to go ahead, as Stoke failed to clear a Van Persie corner. After several hacks at the ball by the home defenders, it eventually fell to Carrick, who toe-poked it 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. A Robert Huth header from a free-kick aside, neither team created an opportunity of note in the first 45 minutes.
The second half started much brighter, however, with the visitors' attacking trio of Wayne Rooney, Van Persie and Javier Hernandez 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, but five minutes later the game was up as United were awarded a penalty. It came after defender Andy Wilkinson felled Van Persie in the area, and the striker stepped up to place the spot kick past Begovic to double the visitors' advantage, and end a Barclays Premier League goalless spell dating back to mid-February.
With 10 minutes left Stoke 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.
Defeat meant Stoke drop below Sunderland to 16 th in the table, only three points off Wigan Athletic in the bottom three, who have two matches in hand.
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis: "You build up to a big game and you want to play high tempo and everything else and you know you give away a bad goal from a set-play, and that settled United and took the steam out of us.
"Our last two home games against [Aston] Villa and now United, we've given away silly goals. It [the Carrick goal] was just a poor goal. I haven't seen it yet but it looked a poor reaction from a couple of our players. Obviously you're going to get quality in when you play the top teams.
"The second goal, the penalty, if Andy [Wilkinson] stays on his feet you've always got a chance. So again, two very, very poor goals for us."
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "Today was an important goal [for Robin van Persie]. He did really good work from Wayne's pass to get brought down for the penalty.
“The ball moved off the spot two or three times, the composure to settle himself down and the penalty kick was a perfect penalty. Low hard, straight into the corner, great penalty.
“You go through spells when you don't score where you never think you're ever going to get a goal, and then when you are scoring you think you're never going to miss.
"[His celebration] nearly killed me! He forgets I'm 71! But that was a great celebration because it brought the emotions of the fans and the players together, everybody could celebrate that."
|20 Apr 2013||v QPR (A)|
|27 Apr 2013||v Norwich (H)|
|06 May 2013||v Sunderland (A)|
|12 May 2013||v Tottenham (H)|
|19 May 2013||v Southampton (A)|