MANCHESTER UNITED 4 STOKE CITY FC 2
Despite some of the media hype there has been a generally held view that for one and a bit seasons now Manchester United are not what they were...worldbeaters.
Maybe so.Yesterday Stoke provided strong evidence that defensively they are not what they were.For the first 25 minutes or so Stoke,admirably prompted by Charlie Adam,bossed this game.We had a dream start when Rooney,under challenge from Shawcross,dispatched an Adam freekick from the right into his own net (11 mins).Stoke continued to press,creating more chances as the United defence at sixes and sevens continued to labour. Walters should have done better with a clear shot on goal from close in.Adam had a goal bound shot brilliantly pushed away at the near post by keeper De Gea.Defensively not what they were then.
But in attack a different proposition altogether.Indeed the real difference on the day was the home side's ability to build quickly in attack,AND to take their chances.But here,of course,money talks.They have,in Rooney and Van Persie two of the best strikers in the country,with Welbeck a not inconsiderable talent.
A swift break and cross from the left saw Rooney heading home(27 mins)to cancel out his earlier goal.
Twelve minutes later a Welbeck shot skimmed the Stoke bar.With two minutes to go before the break Valencia worked down the right.His low cross into the goalmouth was redirected into the net by Van Persie.The bad news for The Potters continued, two minutes after the break when Rooney scampered free on the right.His waist high cross was headed home by the diving Welbeck,Begovic having no chance to save.
That looked to be that,until in the58th minute - and about to be subbed - Kightly again revealed United's defensive frailty,as he dribbled through their defence from the half way line
into the penalty area,placing the ball beyond De Gea's reach into the right hand corner of the net.
For 8 minutes there was hope that we might salvage something,but the game was effectively put to bed by Rooney.A corner from the right was not cleared,bobbled across our defence to Rooney at the far post.A simple tap in,and to all intents and purposes game over.Michael Owen had the last 20 minutes on the pitch,as both sides played out time.
Stoke deserved more than they got from this game,and certainly,unlike other recent visits,gave United plenty to think about.Perhaps next year.....