Manchester United beat Stoke City 2-1 at Old Trafford last night to make it four wins in a row for the first time probably since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson. United really needed to win this game to keep up the pressure on the teams above especially Southampton who are next up for United, if Southampton fail to get a result against Arsenal tonight, United can move above them with a win over them next Monday night. Manchester United went into the game against Stoke on the back of three straight wins and once again had to make changes to the starting line-up from the previous game due to injuries. We saw Di Maria limping off in the previous match and he was replaced by the man who came on for him against Hull Ander Herrera.
While Wayne Rooney also missed out after limping away at the end of the Hull after clattering in the advertising hoardings, despite his claims he would be fit for this game. He didn’t even feature on the bench which proves it was probably more serious than first thought, he is having a scan on his knee today so hopefully the club will get some good news from that and he won’t be out for too long. James Wilson got his chance in the first team in place of Rooney after impressing in a couple of substitutes appearances in the previous games. Wilson deserved his chance and showed glimpses of why he is rated so highly by the United coaching staff and fans.
Manchester United made a steady start to this game without really creating any clear-cut opportunities and Stoke as I knew they would sat back inviting United onto them and looking to hit United on the break. United’s first real chance in the game came when Begovic gifted a clearance straight to Van Persie who laid the ball back to Herrera who blazed his shot over the bar, an in-form Van Persie would probably have taken it on and had a shot himself if he was feeling more confident. Which I think shows he is still lacking a bit of confidence despite his fine finish against Hull on Saturday and his place could soon be under threat when everyone else is eventually fit. United did take the lead when Herrera who had drifted out to the left hand side before linking up with Young and then drifted in a cross to the far post where Fellaini had ghosted in unchallenged and rose highest to head home the opening goal.
Stoke got back into the game just before half-time with their first and only shot of the half when Fellaini lost the ball in a 50-50 challenge on the half-way line. Fellaini went down as if he had a head injury, now I like many other United fans felt the play should have been stopped here but on second viewing the referee made the right decision as this was a nothing challenge and Fellaini needs to look at himself for his part he played in allowing Stoke back into the game. Fellaini is a big strong guy, but at times he gets knocked off the ball far too easy for someone of his size. After Fellaini had lost the ball in this instance Bojan ran at the United defence before being stopped by Smalling only for the ball to fall to Nzonzi who hit a 20 yard shot past De Gea.
United regained the lead just before the hour mark in this game when they won a free-kick on the right-hand side of the Stoke penalty area, Mata drifted the free-kick into the area and it appeared to evade everyone before nestling in the corner of the Stoke net. Marcos Rojo claimed he had touch the ball but it’s a good job he didn’t as he may have been given offside. With United now 2-1 James Wilson showed his blistering pace with a couple of runs at the Stoke defence from his own half and was unlucky not to score his first senior goal of the season before being replaced by Falcao. In dying minutes of the match United sat back and invited Stoke onto them and have David De Gea to thank for keeping the victory intact. He made two fine saves in the final minutes and Ashley Young also cleared one off the line just before the ball had fully crossed the line. Goal-line technology ruling in United’s favour for the second game running. So United take the three points from this game to make four on the bounce and another win at Old Trafford which is important given their poor form at home last season.