LONDON, October 25 – Javier Hernandez showed Manchester United don't need to rely solely on Wayne Rooney as the Mexican forward's double clinched a crucial 2-1 win at Stoke on Sunday.Elsewhere, Arsenal moved into second place – five points behind leaders Chelsea – with a 3-0 victory at 10-man Manchester City, while Liverpool eased the pressure on Roy Hodgson with a 2-1 win over Blackburn at Anfield.
Judging by the storm of controversy over Rooney’s contract row with United this week, it would be easy to believe Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are a one-man team.
Rooney eventually made a remarkable u-turn to commit his future to United by signing a new 150,000 pounds a week contract on Friday just days after criticising the club’s ambition and admitting he wanted to leave.
But the England striker was absent against Stoke due to an ankle injury, reported to be celebrating his 25th birthday in Dubai, and his understudy Hernandez ensured he wasn’t missed with a clinical display of finishing.
Hernandez put United in front in the 27th minute with a clever back-flicked header before Stoke substitute Tuncay Sanli curled home an 81st minute equaliser.
United responded superbly to that setback and Hernandez sealed his side’s first away league win this season with a predatory finish in the 86th minute.
Ferguson said: "When their goal went in you start to say to yourself it is going to be one of those seasons, but Chicharito (Hernandez) came up with the winner.
"It is always tough at United. When your top players come towards the end of their contracts you have to do something to get them a new one. But you have to deal with agents of this world, which is difficult.
"Hopefully we can now kick on. We have some important games between now and Christmas time and we have to make our mark in the league now."
While United got back in touch with Chelsea, their local rivals Manchester City were unable to recover from the early dismissal of defender Dedryck Boyata for a professional foul on Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh at Eastlands.
Arsene Wenger’s side took full advantage as Samir Nasri exchanged passes with Andrey Arshavin in the 20th minute before lifting his shot into the roof of the net.
Cesc Fabregas wasted a golden opportunity to extend Arsenal’s lead before half-time when he won a penalty after being fouled by Vincent Kompany.
Fabregas took the spot-kick himself but City goalkeeper Joe Hart made a fine save.
That miss made no difference as Alex Song flashed a powerful strike past Hart in the 66th minute before substitute Nicklas Bendtner added the third in the closing moments.
At Anfield, boss Roy Hodgson has been under the cosh, with stories circulating this week of dressing room unrest at his management style, following the team’s worst start to a season since 1953.
He was able to celebrate a much-needed second league victory this season thanks to Fernando Torres’s second half winner, but Liverpool remain in the relegation zone.
Hodgson’s side took the lead in the 48th minute when Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos powered home a header from Steven Gerrard’s corner.
Rovers were level two minutes later when Paul Konchesky’s clearance of an El-Hadji Diouf shot deflected back off Jamie Carragher and into his own net.
Spain striker Torres won it for Liverpool in the 53rd minute with a cool finish from Gerrard’s pass.
Hodgson said: "It was a very deserved victory and one that was really needed.
"If we had come in at half-time several goals up no-one could have said a word, so I told them at the break they were going the right way and if they carried on they would be fine."