Manchester United eased to a 2-0 victory over a courageous Wes Bromwich Albion side on a rain-soaked afternoon at Old Trafford.
Referee Jon Moss held two pitch inspections due to the torrential conditions which prompted worry among fans given United only found top gear once the rain had ceased on Boxing Day against the wee club from the North-East.
Pleasingly, Ferguson stuck with De Gea despite his mishap that allowed Newcastle’s first goal. The Scot swapped Ferdinand out for Vidic in an otherwise unchanged back four that included Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra. The midfield was mercifully altered to include Cleverley and Young in with Valencia and Carrick, whilst Kagawa made his return from injury in behind Danny Welbeck.
United started the brighter of the two sides, the energy and dynamism in midfield a stark contrast to the previous game. Carrick once again looked on form, anchoring attacks and anticipating play to his usual high standard.
The Reds took the lead after 8 minutes as Young drove down the left, played the ball into Kagawa who deftly lifted it back into his path inside the box. Young fired a cross into the danger area only for it to cannon off the unfortunate Gareth McAuley’s outstretched leg and nutmeg Ben Foster.
United should have been two up before halftime as a cutback from the subdued Valencia found Ashley Young who could only curl his shot straight at Foster, when either side of him would have resulted in a certain goal.
After half time, West Brom pushed on looking for an equalizer, and in truth were probably the better side for most of the half, without ever creating a clear cut chance.
After 62 mins, with the result still very much in doubt, Sir Alex turned to Robin van Persie to secure the victory and the Dutchman duly delivered in the 90th minute. Scholes, who had come on for Cleverley 10 minutes beforehand, tip-toed along the edge of the box with the ball, and when his shot rebounded to him, he laid it off sideways to Valencia who supplied van Persie. The Dutchman shifted the ball out from under his feet and hit a wicked curling left-foot shot past Foster and into the net.
It was the 50th goal United have scored in 20 league games this season, 28 of which have come at home.
United held on for the win, and will be pleased with the 7 point gap going in to 2013, with over half the season now in the books.