Manchester United strolled to victory over ‘small-time-chants-r-us’ Stoke City with goals from three of their four strikers complimented by a less then convincing display from the back four.
Pleasingly, Sir Alex decided to stick with David De Gea in goal, despite Stoke’s well known reputation for a long ball / set piece orientated style of football. Hopefully a run of games will see De Gea establish himself as the clear number one, much as he was able to do last season when Lindegaard was injured. United’s back four consisted of Evra, Evans, Ferdinand and Rafeal whilst in midfield, Danny Welbeck was again played wide left, accompanied by Scholes, Carrick and Valencia. Rooney played just off Robin van Persie, who had again escaped any kind of injury during the international break, much to the dismay of the hoards of Arsenal fans who had assured everyone that the Dutchman was made of glass when away with Holland.
Arguably the most talked about moment of the day occured before a ball had even been kicked in anger as Rio Ferdinand emerged onto the field to warm up not sporting the Kick It Out t-shirt that Sir Alex had assured the press his whole team would be wearing. Whilst this is a topic deserving of its own article, suffice to say i entirely disagree with Sir Alex’s stated desire to mandate acceptance for a campaign that’s funded by the FA who have repeatedly shown no indication that they pay anything other than lip service to the issue of racism in football. It is Ferdinand’s democratic right to protest at being asked to dress up and act like Kick It Out is working, especially when his brother has been directly affected by the issue recently.
As has become the pattern at home this season, United went behind after 11 minutes when a needless challenge from Paul Scholes between the box and the sideline gave one of King Kenny’s fantastic signings that Brendan Rodgers instantly moved on, Charlie Adam, the chance to deliver a free kick into the danger area right along the 6 yard box. Arguably De Gea could have come to collect it, but the Spaniard left it and an on-rushing Wayne Rooney, under pressure from from former United youngster Ryan Shawcross, headed into his own net to give Small Time Stoke an early lead.
The Stoke fans revelled, wondering which other club’s songs to sing to celebrate the unexpected lead. Stoke carved out several other chances in the early part of the first half, one particularly ‘United-esque’ as Walters ran at the back four and exchanged a perfectly timed one-two with Peter Crouch that had United’s entire defence chasing their own tails. Fortunately Walters’ final strike was slightly scuffed and De Gea was able to push the ball to safety.
United levelled in the 26th minute as a driving run into the box from Patrice Evra dragged Stoke’s back four out of position allowing Rooney to send the ball wide to van Persie who provided a pin point cross back for Wayne to head past Begovic. Rooney ran to celebrate with van Persie instantly, acknowledging the incredible quality of the cross.
Cue more chanting of other team’s songs from STS’s fans.
United took the lead before half time, which must have particularly annoyed the aforementioned Begovic who had already started to waste time from the moment Rooney equalised. Rooney sent the ball out wide to Valencia, who drilled it across the face of goal for van Persie to deflect into STS’s net.
Can you guess what STS’s fans were chanting?
United finished Stoke off just after the break as Rooney played the same kind of inch-perfect ball that van Persie had played to him, in to Welbeck who glanced a header into the far corner of the goal. While i continue to have heart-in-the-mouth moments when Welbeck is in front of goal and has too much time time to think about what he wants to do, his finishing when he operates on instinct, not to mention his work rate mean he more than deserves his inclusion, even on the left wing.
The least positive moment of the day occurred in the 58th minute as Michael Kightly picked the ball up on the halfway line after Patrice Evra had lost it, and was allowed to drive all the way into United’s box and shoot past De Gea in a manner reminiscent of Jan Vertonghen’s run for Spurs’ first goal just a few weeks ago. Once again, the defence seemed not to want to stop him enough as he shrugged off first Michael Carrick and then Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans, our current first choice centre back pairing.
Rooney finished off the scoring in the 65th minute with a scrappy tap in just outside the 6yrd box from a van Persie corner, just as STS’s fans piped up with a bizarre chant about England in a game that had seen Englishmen Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick set foot on the field for United – they are a strange bunch of total idiots.
The positives for United were there for all to see, three strikers scoring, and the blossoming partnership of van Persie and Rooney starting to look incredibly dangerous. However the negatives of a shaky defensive performance in parts and the looming fall out from Sir Alex’s promise to ‘deal’ with Rio Ferdinand’s actions – not ideal seeing as how he’s by far and away our best defender and we’re playing Chelsea away next weekend.