Dimitar Berbatov’s last-minute winner sent Manchester United top of the Premier League table with a scrappy 1-0 win at Bolton here on Saturday.
United have now equalled Chelsea’s record of 10 straight clean sheets in the Premier League but it looked like problems at the other end would thwart them at the Reebok Stadium.
Jussi Jaaskelainen made a string of impressive saves from long-range efforts but was never tested beyond that as United were frustrated.
But they were prolific when it really counted as Carlos Tevez crossed for Berbatov to head in from close range.
Ferguson was able to include defender Jonny Evans and striker Tevez after fitness tests on Saturday morning but United were far from slick in the opening period.
And, stuck out on the left flank, Cristiano Ronaldo quickly found himself the centre of Bolton attention as he was clattered by Chris Basham and then Kevin Davies.
It took time for United to get going and Dimitar Berbatov had their first effort on goal, shooting high and wide from just outside the area.
Finally Ricardo Gardner provided a spark for the hosts skipping past weak challenges from Michael Carrick and Gary Neville only wide of goal.
Gary Megson gave a Bolton debut to Ariza Makakula, who has joined on loan until the end of the season from Benfica, the striker quickly endeared himself to his fans with an unnecessary shove on Nemanja Vidic, which earned him a booking.
But the home side were enjoying a decent spell as the half-hour approached and despite almost losing the ball to Anderson, Fabrice Muamba finished a driving run with a dipping shot that was touched away from the top corner by Edwin Van der Sar.
And after a ball was lobbed into the danger area by Gardner, Davies met the ball on the bounce but just failed to find the corner.
United finally conjured a decent opening 10 minutes before the break when Neville fed Darren Fletcher and his cross picked out Ronaldo but the Portuguese’s header was easily gathered by Jaaskelainen.
Jaaskelainen did well to push wide a Ronaldo free-kick that the goalkeeper must have seen late and a couple of minutes he also made a scrambling save from Anderson’s 30-yard drive.
Bolton started the second half strongly with Gretar Steinsson’s cross from the right just having too much power on it for Matthew Taylor to make contact at the far post.
After Vidic failed to clear with a header, Taylor sliced well wide from 25 yards.
And in the 57th minute, Fletcher’s loose pass gifted Bolton possession and Jlloyd Samuel skipped past Neville and crossed for Davies to send a looping header on to the roof of the net.
But after United’s swift break, Ronaldo cut in-field past Steinsson and clipped a cross to the far post that was almost touched in by Fletcher.
Just after the hour, Ronaldo attempted a trade-mark free-kick from 30 yards and Jaaskelainen could only palm it back into the danger area before it was hacked clear.
But when United finally found Ronaldo in some space down the left, he was firstly let down by a poor touch by Berbatov and then Tevez failed to read a cross from the winger.
As United continued to toil, Paul Scholes had a volley blocked after meeting Ryan Giggs’ corner cleanly and then Giggs sent over a cross that was headed straight at Jaaskelainen by Tevez.
But then in the final minute, Berbatov met Tevez’s cross to head in from close-range to give United a win they scarcely deserved.
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