17/01/2009 16:52, Report by Gemma Thompson
Bolton 0 United 1
The champions sent out an ominous message to their title rivals after moving into top spot for the first time this season thanks to Dimitar Berbatov's 90th minute winner at Bolton.
The Bulgarian headed home Carlos Tevez’s pinpoint cross to give United a vital three points on a day when the Reds kept a tenth consecutive league clean sheet to equal Chelsea's record set during the 2004/05 campaign.
Despite missing the injured Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney, the Reds were given a major boost before kick-off when Carlos Tevez and Jonny Evans both passed late fitness tests. Evans partnered Nemanja Vidic in central defence, with Gary Neville and John O’Shea monitoring the flanks. Sir Alex Ferguson opted to mix things up in midfield with Darren Fletcher taking up a position on the right wing allowing Michael Carrick and Anderson to anchor the centre. Cristian Ronaldo operated down the left with Tevez partnering Dimitar Berbatov up front.
United were going in search of a fifth straight league win, while Bolton were hoping for a change in fortunes having lost five of their last six league matches. It was the visitors who looked the livelier of the two sides in the opening exchanges thanks to some neat interplay and good movement in attack, and on 14 minutes the Reds' first sight of goal arrived. A John O’Shea throw was flicked on by Berbatov to Tevez who headed the ball back into the Bulgarian’s path. He took one touch before letting fly with a sweetly struck volley, but it was always rising and flew high and over.
A somewhat cagey Bolton side, who had already suffered home defeats to Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea before this game, seemed happy to let United dictate the play. But they almost made the most of a poor ball from Anderson just before the half-hour mark which allowed Fabrice Muamba to break forward. United’s Brazilian midfielder looked to have regained possession after sprinting