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Familiar lacklustre start Stoke’s United’s fire

Manchester United came from behind to beat Stoke City 4-2 at Old Trafford with Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck on the scoresheet.

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.

Dan (@MUFC_dan87)

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Redrich

    October 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    I thought the pace of our buildup play was slow throughout the course of the game and it kind of set a tone for the carelessness at the back.
    In contrast to the Newcastle game, where we were first to the ball and crisp and decisive in our tackling, United’s defense reverted back to ball watching and cowardly zonal marking.

    That said, the lineup today, was more than a match for clunky likes of Stoke. I liked the way RVP, Rooney and Welbeck rotated seamlessly to keep the defenders off balance and with Valencia out wide, it gave us another dimension to the attack.
    RVP especially impressive with great vision and precision when passing, and astonishingly lethal when his opportunity came along (please take note Mr. DW).

    The CMF of Carrick and Scholes is not my favorite pairing because of the time they both want on the ball, but neither could be singled out for putting a mark on the game (either way).
    It seems that good work has been done in linking up the MF with the attacking players, it’s now time for the defenders and MF’ers to play together with more unity. The huge holes left by MF’ers caught too high up the field is evidence of them being eager to attack but unwilling or unable to defend.
    Much work to be done with seemingly too little time to do it!!

  2. Moscow

    October 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    On the day of the 2009 CL Final defeat to Barca, if God (or whoever) had told us that our first choice midfield pairing would be Scholes and Carrick in 2012, heads would have rolled.

    Can’t wait for Mourinho to arrive to be honest.

    • Opti

      October 20, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      @Moscow: Mourinwho? The guy who cannot create a legacy without a Sugar Daddy? Mourinho would be the wrong option as his managment is directed at short-term success.

      If he would be willing to state in public that his past management has pursued short-term goals with excessive funding AND that he was looking to change as he comes of age as a Manager and focus on development of youth and long-term sustainability of success, THEN I would jump on-board.

      Until then, I (honestly) would prefer Moyes over Mourinho. More realistically, Guardiola/Mourinho + Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be my short-term dream with Solsjaer taking over after transience expires:
      1986 – 2014: Fergie + muppets 😉
      2014 – 2018: Guardiola/Mourinho + OGS
      2018 – 2040: OGS + Gary Neville 🙂

      Though I am not sure that OGS would be willing to be 2nd fiddle; however, he is my long-term option.

      • Moscow

        October 20, 2012 at 11:41 pm

        @Opti: Didn’t he win the treble with Porto while uncovering stars like Deco? He wasn’t exactly backed by a sugar daddy at Inter, he brought them their first European Cup for half a century as part of a treble.

        By the way, the core of Chelsea players he introduced in 2004 were still there to win the Champions League 8 years later. Not to mention he has now assembled a team which MATCHES the greatest team ever. Have you ever considered who he would ditch United for? I mean we always knew that he’d return to England after he left Chelsea, and bearing that in mind Inter and Real were/are never going to be permanent appointments, but apart from his own national team, who else is left after United?

        As for Solkjaer, I know you’re being sentimental, but Busby’s successor was a sentimental appointment and look how that turned out. Just because you are a legendary footballer doesn’t mean you’re a great manager, and vice versa, Mourinho wasn’t good enough to be a pro footballer.

    • Redrich

      October 21, 2012 at 12:34 am

      @Moscow: Mate, you jumped right from Carrick and Scholes straight to Mourhino. Don’t to think there’s something in between, or is there an agenda to your thinking?? 😆 😆

      • Moscow

        October 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm

        @Redrich: You got me mate, my cover is finally blown. I am actually Mourinho, TSO and all that. I admit to bigging myself up on United forums because you can never get too egotistical 😆 😆 😆

  3. Sahal

    October 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Against Newcastle United applied so much pressure and we fought for every ball,it’s almost like they’re showing disrespect to lower opposition and it’s costing us.Complacency basically cost us the league last year when Everton came back at Old Trafford and we all saw what happens when you disrespect teams in the Champions league.
    I hope United revert back to system used against Newcastle next week in order to close down Chelsea’s many creative players.
    Link up play and movement was impressive today,it will be key to exploiting Chelsea’s vulnerable defense.
    What happen to Kagawa today?

    • Redrich

      October 21, 2012 at 1:39 am

      @Sahal: In respect to showing disrespect, I just don’t see that as an issue. There is a pace to games that determines the dynamics of how both teams match up. In this case United came out flat and it gave Stoke (of all teams) the chance to make a game of it.
      It has been the theme of our season, so far, and a worrying one. Tentative would be a kind word, given the history of this team – nervous, unsure and uncomfortable would be more honest.
      A team in some form of transition – can someone please stand up and tell me what it is.

      • Sahal

        October 21, 2012 at 11:38 am

        @Redrich: United having these flat starts is really frustrating,I do see it as a problem because it gives teams the opportunity to get ahead.On many occasions United will come back and all will be forgotten but,that’s a fine line to thread on.
        One small error is the difference between dropping two points and gaining three.
        I can deal with mistakes,missed chances etc but not showing desire and energy particulary against smaller opposition is completely out of the question.Not to say that that was the case against Stoke mind you but it was a problem over last season and I hope that will not be the case during this>

  4. colver

    October 21, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I’ve seen this for some time now. We only look like a champion winning team when we are in top gear. When we are in the lower gears we look vulnerable and incredibly mediocre and really any team is capable of having a go at us.

    Our defensive lapses have become comical and rather than a luxury our incredible strikeforce seems like a total necessity to make up for deficiencies elsewhere in the team. Which isn’t how it should be.

    • Moscow

      October 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm

      @colver: It is quite worrying that so far we have relied on moments of individual brilliance and pure luck this season even though we haven’t come across any serious opposition. It is difficult to see what has really changed since City came and annihalated us at Old Trafford, our midfield has somehow worsened and our tactical shape has gone into meltdown. We have met two decent teams so far, Everton and Spurs, and we have lost these games getting outplayed. After watching Chelsea against Spurs who played with a specialised double pivot defensive midfield and still lost convincingly, I am at a loss to think how we will deal with them, unless we go 4-6-0 and play all our midfielders in the squad for a draw.

      Even at top gear, this midfield is embarassingly short on quality.

  5. Onkar

    October 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    After yesterday’s game it is very clear that we cant play Carrick and Scholes both together in the same team if we want to play Fast as a Team. It was no coincident that we went with some pace in the Matches when only one of those two played. The problem is they Both like to seat deep and pick a pass but that slows down our game and that is problem. It has to be a any one of them and may be cleverly/Anderson/Fletcher etc…

    • Oz

      October 22, 2012 at 8:47 am

      @Onkar: @Onkar:
      I would love to see Welbeck and Kagawa up front against Braga on Wednesday. With Young and Nani on the wings, Cleverly and Anderson in mid field and Buttner at LB. That setup will give us a lot of pace and it will also give Van P, Valencia and Rooney a break ahead of the Chelsea game.

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