Despite their eventual capitulation, it was the away side who started the game the brightest, taking the lead early on thanks to a corner which Wayne Rooney headed past his own goalkeeper attempting to defend.
David de Gea had been selected in goal ahead of Anders Lindegaard despite his perceived susceptibility in the air, and if he was partly to blame for the first goal, he soon redeemed himself with a string of saves as Stoke attempted to capitalise on United's shaky start to extend their lead.
Having put his side behind, Wayne Rooney soon made amends by scoring the equaliser at the right end, although it was a goal that owed more to Robin van Persie's fine cross. The Dutchman drifted out to the left flank and curled in a superb delivery from which Rooney could hardly miss.
The fact Van Persie found himself on the left wing was indicative of United's fluid attack, with Rooney, Welbeck and van Persie all interchanging positions in a manner that resembled United's side of 2008, but it was a simple move which allowed United to take the lead shortly before half-time. Antonio Valencia picked up the ball on the right-wing and managed to cut a low cross between the legs of Marc Wilson, finding Van Persie in the centre who opened up his body to guide the ball into the far corner, out of the reach of Asmir Begovic. It was a deceptively difficult finish, but also appalling defending from Stoke, with nobody paying heed to Van Persie's presence in the area.
Ater half-time, United appeared to make the points safe when Danny Welbeck got on the end of Wayne Rooney's pinpoint cross to head in a third - a welcome flash of composure after the England striker was guilty of squandering chances in the first half.
United had not really had to break into a sweat to put themselves in front, and their lack of concentration soon put their position under question, when a series of half-hearted tackles allowed Michael Kightly - who was about to be substituted - to stumble into the United area and toe-poke an effort past De Gea which just crept over the line via the post.
United soon restored their two goal lead, however, continuing where they left off at Newcastle, showing some uncharacteristic effectiveness from a corner, which found it's way to Wayne Rooney at the back post for the England striker to lash home his second (or third) goal of the day.
There is no shame in losing by two goals at Old Trafford, but Tony Pulis may want to reflect on how little effort United required to win the game, particularly with the defending for Robin van Persie's goal. In truth, his side were highly fortunate not to lose by more and offered very little all game. For Manchester United, it's a result and a performance that tells us nothing we did not already know, but another three points gained as the Red Devils continue their quest to win back the title.