United survived a mediocre first half before a largely improved performance after the break secured their sixth win in the last seven matches which keeps them four points behind league leaders Chelsea.
United confirmed the same back five from their victory in Newcastle a fortnight ago, but there was no diamond-shaped midfield this time as Fergie reverted to a more classic 4-4-2 with Welbeck and Valencia out wide, Scholes and Carrick in the middle and Rooney and Van Persie up front.
If United fans had thought slow starts were a thing of the past following the first fifteen minutes against Newcastle, they were given a brusque wake-up call today as Stoke dominated the first twenty minutes.
The Potters, who haven’t picked up a single point in Manchester since the introduction of the Premier League, were ahead after 10 minutes as Wayne Rooney headed in his own goal in the vain attempt to prevent Ryan Shawcross from getting a goal himself.
Stoke could have doubled their lead almost immediately but De Gea brilliantly saved a cross-cum shot from Charlie Adam before Danny Welbeck made a mess of Van Persie’s pass as he snatched his shot wide.
De Gea was again excellent midway through the first half as he denied Walters after some good football from the visitors.
When Sir Alex decided to splash £24 on RVP in August, he declared that the former Arsenal man would add composure and intelligence in the final third, and the Dutchman did exactly that as he delivered a sumptuous ball to Wayne Rooney, whose header was this time directed to the right goal as far United were concerned.
It was Rooney’s first goal of the season and his first against Stoke who went close to concede again less than ten minutes later as Scholes saw his shot blocked after being set up by Van Persie and Welbeck’s swerving effort grazed the top of the bar.
RVP scored his eight goal of his Manchester United career with less than three minutes to go in the first half, as he expertly adjusted his feet to flick Valencia’s cross into the bottom corner.
The Dutchman’s ability of making his football look effortless has undoubtedly been a factor in the swiftly growing understanding between him, Rooney and Welbeck,with United’s fluency in the final third subsequently reaping the benefits.
If United had started slowly in the first half, after the break they jumped out of the blocks with a speed that would have had Usain Bolt nodding in approval.
With 52 seconds played in the second half, Rooney turned provider, his cross behind the Stoke four met by Welbeck’s diving header as the England striker opened his account for the season with his first goal since April.
United were again at their blistering best going forward and Begovic was superb as he denied Jonny Evans his second goal in as many games after Rooney had picked out his teammate.
Evans was praised following his display for Northern Ireland on Tuesday and is evolving into a fine player for United, as is Rafael whose cross almost set up United’s fourth but Welbeck failed to make contact with the ball with the goal at his mercy.
For all their defensive frailties, United’s fluidity when going forward is reminiscing of their style circa 2008 with Rooney, Welbeck and RVP capable of scoring and providing in equal measure.
Fergie boldly claimed that if United won’t win the title back this season, it won’t be due to an inferior goal difference and his players seem to have received the message.
Unfortunately for United and their goal difference, defensive lapses such as the one that allowed Stoke to reduce the gap can be quite detrimental.
Having picked up the ball in midfield, Kightly was allowed to run at the United back four before working his way past Ferdinand – albeit through a considerable amount of luck – and slotting the ball past De Gea to become the first Stoke City player to score at Old Trafford since 1980.
Rooney restored United’s two-goal margin less than six minutes later, as he side footed the ball past Begovic after Stoke had failed to deal with a corner, allowing the United striker to net the 200th goal of his career on the weekend that marks the 10th anniversary since he announced his arrival in the Premier League with a superb strike against Arsenal.
Sir Akex decided to send on Anderson,Nani and Hernandez to replace Scholes,Valencia and Welbeck and there was also just enough time to see Michael Owen back in action at Old Trafford but Stoke couldn’t conjure what would have been a famous comeback.
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Tags: Match Reports