MANCHESTER (Sporting Alert) — Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea and Ashley Young made two great stops in the final moments of their English Premier League game against Stoke City.
The two big plays in the closing minute earned the home side all three points to stay in the top four and cut the gap on those ahead of them in the points standings.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE RESULTS – DEC. 2
Crystal Palace 0-1 Aston Villa
Manchester United 2-1 Stoke
West Brom 1-2 West Ham
Leicester 1-3 Liverpool
Burnley 1-1 Newcastle
Swansea 2-0 QPR
Manchester United finished the contest 2-1 winners on the night with Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata scoring the goals, as the side moved within a point of third place Southampton, who will face Arsenal on Wednesday.
But things could have been different for the Red Devils, had De Gea not made two superb saves in the last minutes and Young not cleared off the goal-line after Mame Biram Diouf looked certain to score.
“Like always, big goalkeepers appear when they have to, when the team needs them. That’s what David is doing every game,” Mata said about his Spanish teammate.
Manager Louis van Gaal was pleased with the way his team was able to hold out for the win at Old Trafford.
The victory was the fourth in a row for Manchester United.
“Victories are always valuable because you have to win at a top club,” van Gaal said on www.manutd.com. “If you want to climb the table, you have to win.
“In England, there are no easy matches. Last weekend, every match in this league was close, so I’m very happy with the win tonight.
“Of course it was a relief – we have to kill games off much earlier. We had some big chances, [Ander] Herrera in the first half and Fellaini and [James] Wilson in the second.
“If we had scored one of those, the game would have been over. But, when the scores are close and you have the likes of Crouch coming on to face long balls, the ball can fall anywhere so we were lucky towards the end. I think we deserved to win.”
Steven N’Zonzi netted the lone goal for Stoke in the first half.
He said afterwards: “Of course it’s disappointing not to get a point after we had those two chances at the end.
“It was a tough game but we could have got a draw at least.”
Winning on Tuesday night as well was Liverpool, who beat 10-man Leicester City 3-1 on the road, with captain Steven Gerrard, returning to the starting lineup, amongst the scorers in the victory.
“I am happy with the goal, even more pleased with the win,” Gerrard said. “We are on the way up.
“We are a lot harder to beat. Come the end of the season we will be fighting for fourth.”
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers added: “It was a great victory, players were magnificent. We had to work very hard but our quality came through in the end.
“Steven Gerrard was rested last weekend with tonight in mind. When you rest a player people ask why.
“When you play them you are asked why aren’t you resting them. The energy from being rested at the weekend gave him the energy to play tonight.”
Wes Morgan was given a straight red card in the 63rd minute for Leicester.
Elsewhere, Swansea knocked off QPR 2-0, Crystal Palace fell 1-0 at home against Aston Villa, while West Ham United beat West Brom 2-1 on the road.
Papiss Demba Cisse netted an equaliser for Newcastle to tie 1-1 with Burnley, who went ahead on a 34th minute strike from George Boyd.