Capital One Cup Quarter-Final
Stoke City 0 Manchester United 2
In harsh weather conditions, United produced another solid performance to see off Stoke and reach the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup. The conditions demanded a dogged resilience and United gave it, keeping Stoke chances to a minimum early in the game before winning the game with two exquisite strikes in the second half.
The first half storm probably would have suited the old Stoke team down to the ground but, on this occasion, both teams struggled to play their normal game. Prior to ref Clattenberg taking the players off briefly during a severe hail downpour, there were early half-chances for Young, who fired just wide when put in by Welbeck, and Anderson, whose shot was comfortably saved by Sorenson. Later, Jonny Evans followed in at the far post to a ball the keeper managed to held onto. Stoke had a few dangerous crosses but found the United defence in uncompromising mood.
Other than that, the first half failed to offer up much in the way of goalmouth action. From a United point of view, the most promising signs came from Danny Welbeck, who carried on where he left off on Sunday with pace and movement that consistently troubled the home central defenders, while again Cleverley was busy and industrious in midfield.
The second half consisted of much of the same until it sprang into life in the 62nd minute. Chicharito had just entered the fray and his work on the shoulders of the Stoke defenders created room for the ball to run loose to Young, who let loose a thunderous shot that Sorenson got a hand to but couldn’t keep out. Prior to that, the winger’s influence on the game had been peripheral, as has been the case for much of his time at United, but this was clearly an understandable confidence boost and he proceeded to make the kind of penetrating runs at the opposition defence that were presumably the kind of thing we expected him to do when we signed him. And to helped him to shut up those ridiculous boos that have become such tiresome element of other teams’ ‘support’.
Although the goal lifted United and they continued to push forward, Stoke initially came back with intent. Peters came close to connecting with a vicious cross after 71 minutes and Walters saw his deflected show just clear the bar three minutes later. However, United stood firm and doubled their lead before long. With Stoke forced to reorganise following an injury to Shawcross, Evra exploited the confusion in central defence when he received the ball from Young and cut inside to finish clinically with his right foot.
From there, it was plain sailing. Darren Fletcher came on once again to another rousing reception from United fans, which this time consisted of invitations to him to shoot from as far out as the half-way line. As it was, the Reds were understandably content with their night’s work and comfortably saw out the remainder of the game. We now face Sunderland, conquerors of Chelsea on Tuesday night, in the semi-final in January.