After the derby defeat to Manchester City, a trip to a blustery Britannia Stadium against a team battling to avoid the drop was clearly a potential banana-skin but the Reds' class showed in testing conditions with Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie, from the penalty spot, grabbing the goals.
Sir Alex Ferguson selected Wayne Rooney in midfield with Javier Hernandez handed a chance to continue his fine scoring record against the Potters while Phil Jones and Shinji Kagawa also started. Rooney looked at home and the visitors made the perfect start following a fourth-minute corner.
Van Persie's cross led to right-back Phil Jones trying to hook the ball goalwards but a scramble ensued and Carrick intelligently jabbed into the corner of the net with the outside of his foot. It was a first league goal for the majestic midfielder this term and the 100th for United in all competitions in 2012/2013.
Another van Persie corner saw Patrice Evra lift an attempt over the top while Rooney forced a decent stop out of Asmir Begovic after unleashing a piledriver from long range. Stoke's response to falling behind was muted until Robert Huth headed wide from a Charlie Adam cross.
Nevertheless, United dictated matters for the majority of the first half and looked pretty comfortable. Van Persie tried to end his goal drought and lobbed a cheeky effort well wide from 40 yards out after robbing Adam before firing in a snap-shot that was fumbled behind for a corner by Begovic.