international dragged his finish wide of Asmir Begovic’s goal.
The Stoke stopper was beaten, however, shortly before the half-hour mark as Rooney atoned for his earlier opener. Van Persie, having pulled wide left in the Reds’ revolving attack, received the ball from Rooney, then swung a magnificent cross into the six yard box, where Rooney had superbly manoeuvred between Shawcross and Huth to nod home.
For the remainder of the first half, the tone had been set, with the Reds’ forward quartet central to most of what transpired. Van Persie’s flighted ball was superbly controlled by Rooney and set for Welbeck, who fired over under heavy pressure from Shawcross. A surging run from Scholes and one-two with van Persie was snuffed out by Huth, before Welbeck’s stunning 25-yard curler clipped Begovic’s bar.
Parity was creaking, and duly gave in a minute before the interval in a move which laid bare the glaring positives of the Reds’ new-look formation and penchant for passing the ball from back to front.
De Gea, Evans and Carrick were central figures as the ball was ferried – under heavy Stoke pressure - from the United area to the right flank, where Valencia deliberated, shimmied and then drilled in a cross which van Persie contorted to stab home.
Even in the few moments that remained in the first period, Stoke served notice that their threat remained, as Rafael was required to make a heroic clearance with Steven N’Zonzi lurking.
The surest way to see off the visitors was by continuing to attack, and United began the second period in perfect fashion. Again, members of the forward four combined, as Rooney swung in a sublime cross which Welbeck dived to head beyond Begovic.