Wayne Rooney marked 10 years in the Premier League with a virtuoso performance in Manchester United’s 4-2 win at home to Stoke City.
Rooney, who announced himself to English football with a winner for Everton against Arsenal almost exactly a decade ago, scored two and created another as he led United’s comeback from an own-goal he had scored himself.
Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck were also on target for the hosts, with Michael Kightly pulling it back to 3-2 before Rooney put the tie to bed.
United sit four points behind leaders Chelsea after the win, with Manchester City's late winner at West Brom keeping them level with their city rivals.
Stoke took the lead from one of their dreaded set-pieces, although it was not one of the “jolly green giants” – as Sir Alex Ferguson calls them – but Rooney who put Charlie Adam’s delivery past his own keeper after Paul Scholes had given away a needless free-kick. Not a good way to celebrate 10 years in the top flight.
Scholes was not having his best tackling game and was fortunate not to be sent off after a series of wild first-half challenges saw just one booking shown.
His passing was crisp as ever though as United dominated possession. Stoke, meanwhile, looked dangerous every time they went forward, David De Gea keeping out a surprise shot from Adam, Patrice Evra making a vital intervention as Jonathan Walters prepared to finish after another high ball caused problems, and De Gea again to the rescue as Walters smashed a shot from range after a delightful stepover from Kightly.
For United, Antonio Valencia somehow missed the three waiting United forwards when he got in space wide right, while Welbeck - the more central of the trio - dragged his finish wide after good interplay with the impressive Van Persie.
Finally United drew level, and it was a slightly better way for Rooney to enjoy his anniversary, meeting Van Persie’s left-wing cross with a flying header after starting the move with a fine pass to the Dutchman.
From that point it was all United, as Welbeck blasted over from Rooney’s pass before hitting the bar with an adventurous drive.
And the hosts took the lead just before the break with another neat goal, Van Persie adjusting his bodyshape beautifully to angle a first-time finish past Asmir Begovic after Valencia’s accurate low cross capped off a sweeping move from defence to attack.
United picked up where they left off, increasing their lead almost from the second-half restart as Rooney was given time and space to pick out a fantastic swerving cross that Welbeck dived in to head past Begovic, the Bosnia keeper exposed by Shawcross and Robert Huth’s poor marking once more.
The hosts were picking Stoke apart now, as Begovic pulled off a miracle stop to deny Jonny Evans’s header from another fine Rooney cross, while Welbeck was inches short of sliding home a brilliant cross-shot from Valencia.
But a big cat was thrown amongst the pigeons just before the hour mark as some terrible defending by United - capped off by a comical attempt to clear from Rio Ferdinand - allowed Kightly to bundle forward from halfway and roll in a finish off the inside of the post.
United did not have to wait long to restore their two-goal advantage when Rooney struck for a second time, a simple finish this time after Van Persie’s corner ricocheted around the box, Welbeck getting an accidental assist as it bounced off him last.
Michael Owen made an appearance against his former club and he almost pulled one back at a Potters corner, only to be denied by Van Persie’s vital block.
Otherwise it was a pretty timid finish as United eased off to see home the win and keep the pressure on Chelsea.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Wayne Rooney – Manchester United: Two goals, an assist and an own-goal to keep us guessing as he celebrated his decade in the Premier League with some style.
MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea 7, Rafael 6, Ferdinand 5, Evans 6, Evra 6, Scholes 6, Carrick 6, Valencia 7, Rooney 9, Welbeck 7, Van Persie 8. SUBS: Anderson 6, Hernandez N/A, Nani N/A
STOKE: Begovic 7, Cameron 6, Huth 5, Shawcross 5, Wilson 5, N'Zonzi 6, Whitehead 6, Walters 6, Adam 6, Kightly 7, Crouch 5. SUBS: Palacios N/A, Owen 6, Etherington 6
- Wayne Rooney
- Manchester United
- Danny Welbeck