|1||Van der Sar|
Dimitar Berbatov poked home a potentially priceless late winner for the league leaders, who had been frustrated for long periods by a magnificent defensive display from Bolton, while also being reduced to 10 men for a heavy challenge by Jonny Evans on Stuart Holden.
Led by inspired displays from Gary Cahill and David Wheater in the centre of defence, the Trotters rarely offered United a clear opening, but Berbatov pounced to pinch the points just as time seemed to be running out for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
Starting the first instalment of a five-match touchline ban, the United manager again had to patch up his backline. Wes Brown was shunted to right-back by the return of Evans, who joined Chris Smalling in the centre of defence. Patrice Evra continued at left-back.
With a surfeit of fit wingers, however, the United manager deployed Nani and Antonio Valencia on opposite flanks and repurposed another, Ryan Giggs, to join Michael Carrick in central midfield.
Bolton arrived at Old Trafford on the back of a six-game unbeaten run and, like United, fresh from booking a berth in this season’s FA Cup semi-finals. The Trotters struck the first blow even before kick-off; winning the toss and forcing United to flip custom and attack the Stretford End in the first period.
There was another scare for United within two minutes, as Evans’ slip allowed Johan Elmander to tee up Fabrice Muamba, but the midfielder’s clunky first touch sent the ball out of play, when a first-time shot would have posed serious questions of Edwin van der Sar.