The Spaniard needs a slice of luck that Van Persie was granted at Old Trafford, with the Netherlands striker’s shot looping up off James Collins and over stranded goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
“We got a great start,’’ said Ferguson, whose side has more often than not conceded first this season. “You hope to go on from a start like that and some of our football was very good, but we never quite finished them off.’’
For City, it was the complete opposite, starting sluggishly at Wigan, but ending well to maintain their unbeaten start. The champions’ goals came in the space of four minutes, with Balotelli marking his return to the starting lineup by burying a loose ball in the 69th.
Milner, a second-half substitute, wrapped up victory in the 72nd, only to go off with a hamstring problem.
Late goals by Jonathan Walters and Cameron Jerome allowed Stoke to overhaul Newcastle, who had gone in front through Papiss Demba Cisse.
An error by Paulo Gazzaniga gifted Norwich a point at Southampton, with the ’keeper fumbling a Robert Snodgrass free-kick into his own net. Rickie Lambert had put Saints ahead in a match refereed by Clattenburg, less than a week after being cleared of racism allegations.