MANCHESTER UNITED 2 STOKE CITY FC 1
Stoke’s previous two visits to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’had seen a total of 9 goals conceded without reply.It was no great surprise, therefore, that The Potters proceeded with caution,though this time less in the way of trepidation. Manager Tony Pulis opted for a 5 man midfield, with Kenwyne Jones ploughing a loan furrow upfront.
United made several changes for this match, notably leaving Rooney and Ferdinand out. Any suggestion that this was a weaker side than that which faced West Bromwich at the weekend should be refuted. United have a squad with strength in depth, and certainly the Mexican striker Hernandez, Rooney’s replacement,is having a better season than the scouser, if their respective goal tallies are anything to go by.
Sitting at the back of the North Stand offers a view not dissimilar to that of a Subutteo table, the players tiny and far below. That said, Old Trafford is a magnificent arena.
Stoke managed to contain and largely negate and frustrate the home team until the 27th minute, when Nani’s ball across the Stoke goal reached Hernandez adjacent to Begovic’s left goal post. As Ryan Shawcross put in a challenge the striker cleverly and cheekily backheeled the ball between the defenders legs, through the small gap between keeper and post into the net.
We started the second half in much more positive mood, and it came as a pleasant surprise, when a cross from Tuncay on the left was headed home by Whitehead for an equaliser (50 mins).Immediately United upped the ante, whilst Stoke seemed unable to build on this success.Twelve minutes later a ball from Henandez on the left found Nani to the right of goal just outside the box.Danny Collins had the chance to challenge but did not dive in, the winger taking the opportunity to curl a finely executed left foot shot well beyond Begovic’s dive, and into the net for the winner.
Stoke increased their attacking efforts, particularly in the closing minutes, but could not find a way through.
This time then it was a much more respectable score, but still no points taken from United since we returned to the top division.