Manchester United recorded a fourth win in a row for the first time since December 2013 with a 2-1 triumph over Stoke City at a chilly Old Trafford on Tuesday night.

Marouane Fellaini’s first-half header and Juan Mata’s free-kick – from which Marcos Rojo tried to claim a decisive touch – ensured the Reds collected another three points, although, not for the first time this season, an inspired moment from David De Gea was needed to safeguard the victory. Steven Nzonzi equalised for the Potters before the break and Mame Biram Diouf almost did the same, twice, in the dying seconds but was thwarted by the Reds’ no.1 and then an Ashley Young goal-line clearance.

The absence of the injured Wayne Rooney and Angel Di Maria from United’s team-sheet may have given the visitors a lift, but Asmir Begovic threatened to ruin a fairly trouble-free opening for Stoke with a careless pass to Robin van Persie. The Stoke goalkeeper’s blushes were spared when Ander Herrera scooped over the Dutchman’s pass.

Refusing to focus on the missed opportunity, Herrera – deployed behind James Wilson and van Persie – showed fine movement to drift wide before sending in a looping cross for the towering Fellaini to nod home at the back post.

United looked comfortable as the half progressed and were unfortunate to be pegged back with six minutes to go before the break. As Fellaini collapsed to the floor with what appeared to be a neck problem, Bojan Krkic’s charge was halted by the Reds defence before the ball ricocheted towards Nzonzi for a 20-yard drive beyond De Gea’s left palm.

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