Even with the same starting XI as the previous week against West Brom, even the most ardent Stoke supporters turning up at Old Trafford were not expecting their team to do anything but survive against the team who had demolished the Premier League Champions the week before. And for the first half that is all Stoke seemed capable of with Manchester United creating chance after clear cut chance only to be thwarted by a goalkeeper making only his second top flight start.
Zlatan was the first to test Lee Grant as he was played through and with only the Stoke goalkeeper to beat the big Swede should really have done better. With the talismanic striker unable to break the deadlock Juan Mata was next to try his luck with a cheeky chip from the edge of the penalty box but Grant was once again up to the task. Then Zlatan broke past Shawcross, who played as well as he had since the Everton game, and spotting Linegard the big Swede fed the young Englishman who, shooting first time, could only watch in shock as Grant somehow stretched to his left to palm the ball around the post.
To say the action was completely one-sided in the first half would be unfair to Stoke who did have a couple of chances, non more so than a tame Cameron shot which if he had put his laces through it might have changed the narrative of the first half. Yes Stoke did have chances but when they did break the first touch or final pass of the Stoke front four let them down. Time after time the Stoke defence found themselves unable to catch their breath because Bony, Shaqiri, Arnie and Joe Allen all gave the ball away too cheaply at times.
With the teams coming out for the second half most people inside the stadium would have been expecting the game to follow the pattern of the second half but instead it was Stoke who held the upper hand. Yet for all their possession Stoke were not creating any clear cut chances and this was because, just like in the first half, Stoke gave the ball away too cheaply.
On the side-line Jose had obviously seen enough and decided to replace Linegard and Mata for Martial and Wayne Rooney yet initially neither managed to wrestle the initiative away from Stoke until Martial was gifted an opportunity, which he took beautifully, by a poor touch from Cameron. Finding themselves behind Stoke seemed to panic and Manchester United, smelling blood, pushed forward for a second which surely would have killed the game but instead it was Stoke who managed to get the final goal of the game.
For the second time in the game the team which was clearly in the ascendency got caught with a sucker punch when a speculative cross from Super Jon was fumbled by the Manchester United defence and Joe Allen was on hand tap into an empty net for the second match running. Allen’s goal prompted a typical Jose response and Depay was added to the already impressive array of attacking threats but whilst at times looking somewhat shaky, and thanks to Lee Grant, Stoke’s defence managed to hold out until the end of the game.
Against Manchester United Stoke improved again upon the previous matches performance but with a break for the internationals there are still a few things Mystic Mark and his backroom staff must work on ahead of the must win match against Sunderland:
- I know I sound like a broken record but what has Ramadan done wrong? Maybe he wouldn’t have got on the pitch and yes Super Jon did set up the goal but a place on the bench gives him the experience and Mystic Mark a genuine wide-man option.
- Keep working on zonal marking. It was better than against West Brom but Manchester United still won too many headers in the Stoke box.
- Persevere with Wilfried Bony. Again Stoke scored once Two Meter Peter was introduced but apart from looking back as Joe Allen scored can you honestly say you noticed that he was on the pitch.
Stoke Giraffe of the Week Lee Grant
Stoke Lemon of the Week Erik Pieters
Lee Grant – 9 Amazing, lost count of the number of fine saves he made during the course of the match.
Glenn Johnson – 8 Played well both in attack and defence and dealt well with the rather unimpressive Rashford
Ryan Shawcross – 8 Let Zlatan get away from him once or twice but on the whole looked after the big Swede well.
Bruno Martins Indi – 8 Works well with Shawcross and looks to be a threat from set pieces
Erik Pieters – 6 Back to his early season form, unfortunately, came inside too often giving Valencia and Linegard too much space
Glenn Whealan – 7 Always there to plug the gaps
Clumsy Cameron – 7 Did the defensive part of his game well and popped up in opposition half, most notably for his first half chance. More than most though needs to work on his clumsy first touch
Joe Allen – 8 Another Duracell bunny performance and in the right place to score the goal.
Shaqiri – 7 Not as influential as last week but his tormenting of Smalling in the corner was majestic as he turned the United defender inside out then back inside again.
Arnie – 8 Another hardworking performance and Stoke’s most dangerous outlet.
Wilfried Bony – 6 50/50, at times looked the consummate lone striker at others looked like a Port Vale player
Two Meter Peter – 6 Ran around a lot but didn’t really do much else
Super Jon – 7 Set up the goal.
Phil Bardsley – 6 Weird one After only having one full back at times this season Stoke finished the match with three on the pitch
Mark Hughes – 7 Would love to have heard what Mystic Mark said to the boys at half time, substitutions worked again.
Robert Madley – 6 Best summed up by the Stoke fans in the first half, “We’ve got another shit ref!”.