Match Review: Manchester United 1-1 Stoke
Stoke claimed their first point at Old Trafford since 1980 on Sunday lunchtime as they drew 1-1 with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. Lee Grant looked as thought he was going to earn Stoke their first clean sheet in 17 games with his outstanding performance, but Anthony Martial broke the deadlock and Stoke hearts with what looked like a winning goal. However, Joe Allen found himself inches away from the Manchester United goal with the ball at his feet and shocked the Theatre of Dreams with just less than 10 minutes to go. Stoke continued on their upward trend in form and looked good for their point, defending well and having good moments in attack.
Mark Hughes opted to stick with exactly the same starting XI that earned a point against West Brom last weekend. The surprises came in the form of the personnel that were on the bench or missed out of the squad completely. Record signing Giannelli Imbula and impressive youngster Ramadan Sobhi both didn’t make the 18 man squad that travelled to Manchester, meanwhile Bojan remained on the bench.
The game was almost over minutes after kick off. Ibrahimovic broke away from the Stoke defence and collected the ball with the goal at his mercy, however Lee Grant got down superbly to produce an incredible save. It was a definite sign of things to come for the new deputy and it was this save that perhaps inspired him for the rest of the match. Down the other end of the field, Marko Arnautovic, on his 100th Premier League appearance, crossed in towards Wilfried Bony who was so close to pulling the trigger in a good position. Geoff Cameron picked up the loose ball that followed and, after a neat turn or two, fired a good shot from distance at David de Gea. It was encouraging to see Stoke having chances of their own, despite clearly being instructed to absorb pressure from United.
An almost mirrored chance happened again for Stoke: Joe Allen was released by Xherdan Shaqiri and crossed into Bony, once again missing his kick. Cameron then collected the follow up on the penalty spot in front of a gaping United goal, but fired straight at de Gea once again, except this time he will be much more disappointed with the outcome considering the position he found himself in. Stoke could have been left rueing that good chance as Paul Pogba had one of his own down the other end: he ended up missing the target completely from a wonderful position and it really should have broken the deadlock. Alas, the game remained 0-0.
Stoke were under immense pressure following this chance for Pogba and Lee Grant was forced into more splendid saves to preserve his clean sheet. One of these chances involved tipping over a chip from Juan Mata from the edge of the penalty area, he also threw himself of a Jesse Lingard shot from a couple of yards out. Ryan Shawcross was also called into duty, powerfully blocking Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s effort from an acute angle. After this phase of dominance from the home side: Stoke went down the other end and Xherdan Shaqiri produced a moment of sheer magic to round off the half: after fending off Chris Smalling’s pressure, he turned to face him and executed a magnificent flip-flap, posting the ball through the England international’s legs. It was a reminder that the quality Stoke possess, as well as their defensive resilience in what was a very entertaining affair for a goalless half of football.
The second half kicked off and Stoke had a free kick early on. Shaqiri sent in a delicious ball into Bruno Martins Indi, his resulting header was tipped over the bar by de Gea, even though the goal would have been ruled out for offside should the Spaniard not have dealt with the effort. It was Stoke’s time to turn the screw on United and produced an elongated spell of pressure, but it was a United counter-attack that was the clearest of chances for either team in this period. Stoke found themselves outnumbered in their own half after a long ball upfield, Lee Grant saw fit to rush out of his area and clear the ball to safety before United could capitalise. United could, and should, have had a man sent off: Ander Herrera stabbed a viscous boot in Allen’s midriff with his studs showing, but a yellow card was deemed enough punishment by the referee despite it clearly being a more serious offence.
Minutes later, Stoke combined well in the opposing penalty area and Allen collected the ball ten yards away from the goal; he opted to go for placement over power but sadly it wasn’t enough to beat de Gea. After that scare of the red devils, they went off looking for a goal of their own, the majority of their chances coming from long shots which Grant dealt with comfortably, but his clean sheet was about to be muddied. Substitute Wayne Rooney found his teammate and fellow sub Anthony Martial on the left wing, the latter rasped a curling effort around the helpless Grant and into the back of the net. Stoke were undeservedly trailing with 20 minutes to go. It could have been two very quickly if it wasn’t for Stoke’s wonderful ‘keeper, he once again saved low from an Ibrahimovic shot similar to the one at the start of the game. Stoke found themselves holding on.
To make matters worse, Arnautovic went down holding his knee after a rough challenge. He was substituted off along with the lacklustre Bony, being replaced by Jon Walters and Peter Crouch. Social media has a meltdown, thinking that the two subs would signal the end for Stoke’s hopes for an equaliser. Quite the opposite happened. Glen Johnson took a low shot from 20 yards which de Gea could only parry, Walters picked up the loose ball and crossed into an unmarked Crouch. His run was too early from the cross, which hit the crossbar, and he ended up behind the goal line before the ball dropped; luckily, that cross dropped at Joe Allen’s feet and he merely had to tap the ball into an empty net from a yard away. The mental ensued, the celebrations were wild, Stoke were ten minutes away from claiming points off Manchester United for the first time in a very, very long time. United, deflated from the goal, looked to restore their lead in the dying embers of the game. Ibrahimovic was denied brilliantly again by Lee Grant, meanwhile the crossbar denied Paul Pogba’s header from breaking Stoke hearts. The game finished, the job was done, the mood was glorious.
Stoke put in the kind of performances that saw them defy the Manchester clubs at home last season, but it was something about today, given the circumstances recently and the record at Old Trafford, that made today more special. Lee Grant will be a hero in training tomorrow and Joe Allen scores another Stoke City goal. Stoke now have three point and are back off the bottom of the table. But this game means more than that, after the international break next week the fixtures looks favourable for Stoke and the Potters could be well on the way of getting their season back on track with performances like that. It was the game that Mark Hughes would have dreamed of last night, knowing that anything less would have seen his position at Stoke very precarious indeed.
Keep the faith. We could well on the way to something here.
Lee Grant: 9 – almost unbeatable, a clean sheet away from a perfect 10.
Glen Johnson: 7 – part of a fantastic back four under the circumstances.
Ryan Shawcross: 7 – got one back on Zlatan since his England debut. Well in.
Bruno Martins Indi: 6 – no mistakes today similar to last week’s against WBA. Settling in well.
Erik Pieters: 6 – cannot fault his defensive discipline today.
Glenn Whelan: 6 – did his job well, something I haven’t said a lot this season
Geoff Cameron: 7 – very mobile in midfield and annoyed United all day.
Xherdan Shaqiri: 7 – created chances and deserves the score for his magnificent piece of skill.
Joe Allen: 9 – already begun earning his place as Player of the Season. Splendid.
Marko Arnautovic: 7 – his usual brilliant self on his 100th PL appearance.
Wilfried Bony: 5 – only downside of a good Stoke team. Contributed very little.
Jon Walters (15 mins): 6 – got the assist for the goal, however fortunate.
Peter Crouch (15 mins): 6 – encouraged Stoke to use his attacking threat. Becoming very effective in the latter stages of games.
Phil Bardsley (<1 min) – no time for impact.
Written by Ben Rowley
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