GOALS from Dimitar Berbatov and John O'Shea were enough to inflict a second successive home defeat on Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Potters had done well to hold out United until half time, however, Ryan Giggs' introduction proved to be a masterstroke as he unlocked the City backline on two occasions.
Firstly, his delicate ball into the six-yard box was tapped home by Berbatov in the 62nd minute, before O'Shea headed home from his cross in the 77th minute.
As expected Tony Pulis made wholesale changes to his starting eleven ahead of the game from the one which beat Blackpool in the Carling Cup midweek.
He named the same starting line-up from the game at Bolton seven days earlier, with just Liam Lawrence coming in at the expense of the injured Ricardo Fuller.
The game kicked off and the visitors looked desperate for an early goal after being frustrated by City here on Boxing Day.
Nani floated a delightful ball into the City penalty area in just the second minute and despite Robert Huth managing to flick the ball away, Wayne Rooney responded by firing an acrobatic effort just over the bar.
The lively Nani then went close himself minutes later after collecting a neat one-two off Patrice Evra, but he curled the ball just wide of Thomas Sorensen's left hand post.
The visitors continued to dominate the early proceedings, and when Antonio Valencia capitalised on some hesitance amongst the City backline in the 8th minute, it should have been 1-0.
The Columbian international, who arrived at Old Trafford from Wigan during the summer, burst clear on goal and dinked the ball over Sorensen, however, fortunately for the hosts his effort drifted just wide.
Good fortune and stubbornness amongst the Potters rearguard managed to deny the visitors an early opener, and had Liam Lawrence shown a little bit more composure in the 14th minute it could have been City celebrating the first goal of the afternoon.
The Republic of Ireland international linked up well with Matthew Etherington, and with no one within ten yards of him, he smashed the ball across goal, only for Kitson to narrowly avoid making contact with it.
Englandstar Rooney then showed his class by cutting inside Danny Collins and driving a ferocious ball dangerously across the six-yard box, but nobody was on hand to turn it into an empty net.
German international Huth was the first player to be cautioned by Howard Webb after lunging in dangerously on Paul Scholes.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side continued to have the lion's share of possession but still failed to find a way through a stubborn and dogged City rearguard. Even when they did manage to muster half a chance, Sorensen was in fine form and once again denied Nani right on the stroke of half-time with a superb save down to his left.
Neither boss decided to tinker with their team during the interval, but it was Ferguson who made the first change just eight minutes into the second half by bringing on the evergreen Ryan Giggs at the expense of Portugal star Nani.
His arrival was met by a standing ovation from the visiting supporters and you could see why he was greeted like a hero, as a few minutes later it was he who teed up Berbatov inside the six-yard box to tap home the opening goal of the game.
The Welsh international then went close to doubling the Champions' advantage just before the hour mark after he nipped in between Shawcross and Sorensen but over-ran the ball out for a goal-kick, with the goal at his mercy.
Pulis responded with a couple of changes of his own as he looked to find a way back into the contest. Turkey skipper Tuncay came on for David Kitson, whilst James Beattie replaced Dean Whitehead.
However, the pair had barely been on the pitch five minutes by the time Ireland international O'Shea glanced Giggs' in-swinging free kick beyond Sorensen and into the bottom right hand corner, to all but seal the victory.
Ferguson still found time to bring on Michael Owen late on as he looked to turn the screw into the Potters, but another goal never looked likely as United looked content with their two goal cushion.