Plucky United Steal a Point From Stoke
The first game of the New Year saw Manchester United travel to a windy Britannia Stadium to face a Stoke City outfit who were on a good run of form following two successive wins without conceding.
Despite having the majority of the possession, Louis van Gaal’s men were very poor and were extremely lucky to come away with any points at all after the game ended 1-1.
Goals from Ryan Shawcross and Radamel Falcao ensured both teams took home a share of the spoils.
Just two minutes in, the former United man Shawcross took advantage of some typically poor defending when he volleyed home from a Peter Crouch header to open the scoring for the Potters.
The hosts should have gone two goals clear when a mistake by the usual culprit, Jonny Evans allowed Mame Biram Diouf clear through but the Senegalese international failed to hit the target.
Then, completely against the run of play, Wayne Rooney’s corner bounced awkwardly in the box and Falcao bundled it over to level matters after 26 minutes.
A number of defensive errors by Chris Smalling and Evans were followed by a dreadful goalkick by David De Gea which almost gifted Stoke two or three more goals but the deep-lying strikers were unable to capitalise.
The teams went into the break all square but United would need to stop relying on luck and start utilising their skills in order to push on and win this one.
However, the pattern continued in the second half with the visitors retaining possession and getting hit on the counter attack.
The home side could have regained the lead early on but Crouch’s effort hit the upright before Diouf flashed a screamer just over the crossbar.
Smalling then handled in the box but referee Michael Oliver failed to see the offence and waved play on.
The Red Devils made a few chances of their own but fell apart in the final third. Wayne Rooney put in a shift, however, did not have the sort of impact he usually does while Robin van Persie looked lazy and disinterested so he was never likely to find the net.
For the hosts, Steven N’Zonzi looked off the pace and Diouf fluffed a handful of scoring opportunities.
Mark Hughes will feel hard done by that his team only managed to take one point away from the fixture but the performance was a very impressive one by the Potters who have started the year on a high.
Van Gaal will need to address his own tactical mishaps before the meeting with Southampton in 10 days time as his 5-3-2 formation failed miserably yet again.