Not sure if Stoke have played in a league match in front of a 75,500 crowd.Certainly they have not in recent times.Memorable today throughout the match were the splendid ,dare I say defiant, songs and chants from the Stokie contingent present in the so called Theatre of Dreams.Loud and impressive indeed.
On the pitch the Stoke team did not really reach the standards of play of recent weeks....maybe they were not allowed to.Manchester United took their visitors seriously enough.Sure Rooney and Ferdinand were missing,but they fielded Ronaldo (new contract rumoured to include £170,000 a week in wages),Berbatov,Tevez,and a selectionof European match regulars.
Against Liverpool Stoke benefitted from Gerrard's early free kick being chalked off by the ref.Today there was no similar reprieve as Ronaldo scored in the 3rd minute,his fierce free kick moving in the air sufficiently to deceive keeper Sorensen,who,on another day might have been able to deflect the ball over the bar.If that goal set out a different scene it was one in which for much of the half Stoke held their own,and made occasional threatening forays into the United half.
Stoke,and the match,were killed off by goals either side of halftime.Carrick took a ball across the edge of the penalty area,centrally placed,he worked the ball from his right foot to his left before shooting home on 45 minutes.Only 4 minutes after the break Berbatov fired home from close range in front the Stretford End.
End of contest,but Stoke continued to resist,until the 84 th minute.Young forward Welbeck,on for a few minutes experience, struck an unstoppable rocket of a shot from outside the area into the top corner of the Stoke net.A winning candidate for 'Goal of the Month' if ever I saw one,and easier now to see why the likes of Frazier Campbell go out on loan.
Visibly tired Stoke conceded another free kick on the edge of their penalty area.With his earlier goal Ronaldo's kick went over the Stoke defensive wall.This time (89mins) he deceived Sorensen by bending the ball around the right edge of the wall just inside the post,beating the keeper's despairing dive to his left.
On the day United had a bit too much for us....no shame in that.We fall to 14th in the table with 14 points from 13 games,and with some home matches to come starting with the baggies next Saturday.Another observation we've played the 'top four' sides and not disgraced ourselves......even more significant we average a point a game from those matches,something that many would not have expected when the season began.