Manchester United vs Stoke City: what we learned
|Sun Oct 02 2016
Manchester United’s run of victories was brought to a halt by Mark Hughes’ Stoke City. This was in spite of a dominant performance by the Red Devils. Here is what we learnt from Manchester United vs Stoke City.
Profligacy continues to haunt
Of late, Jose Mourinho’s men have been particularly plagued by their failure to create concrete opportunities. That however, was not the case at Old Trafford on Sunday.
United came flying out against their opposition. Much like what they had done against champions Leicester, last week. The difference lay in the conversion of opportunities.
There had been misses against Leicester too. That, however, had been offset by the flurry of goals. They were not so lucky this time. The Potters’ goalkeeper put in a world class shift under the bar as he managed to stop any and everything Zlatan and co threw at him.
He was aided, of course, by a number of easy misses by the United players. Pogba was particularly liable. Mourinho needs to find a cure for this, else there might be further misery in store.
2. Rashford continues to shine
Teenage sensation, Marcus Rashford, has been among the better performers for United this season. Against Stoke too, he showed that he was in for the long haul.
Drifting in out of either flank, Rashford looked completely unperturbed for most of the game. Once, Mourinho had decided to sub in Anthony Martial, Rashford was moved to the right.
However, he excelled in that position. On at least two occasions, he created goal scoring opportunities from the right. Unfortunately, those were not converted by his more illustrious counterparts.
Grant puts in performance of a lifetime
Lee Grant has had a fairly pedestrian career so far. A graduate of Watford’s youth system, Grant has spent most of his senior career at Derby County. When Stoke City came calling for a six month loan, to cover for Jack Butland, Grant jumped at the chance.
He might not have won any silverware, but this is a story worth telling his grandchildren. The day, he (almost) singlehandedly, won a share of the spoils at Old Trafford.
Again and again United attacked. The final count stood at 9 shots on target. However, what the stats don’t say, is the fact that most of them would have been sure goals, if not for Grant.
His performance included multiple saves from Zlatan, but the best was an instinctive dive deny Jesse Lingard from point blank range.
Herrera and Pogba make a good pairing
Manchester United fans heaved a sigh of relief when the team sheets were announced. The reason: Marouane Fellaini had finally been benched.
Crowd favourite: Ander Herrera, started in place of the Belgian. And from the beginning it was apparent what United had been missing for so long.
Herrera’s fluid passing and ability to be at the right place at the right time far outweighs Fellaini’s weighty qualities. The Spaniard’s presence allowed Pogba to enjoy a free role.
The results were apparent early on. Pogba’s pass played in Zlatan, as early as the second minute. Soon, Pogba himself got into position only to shoot wide. It might be too early to call this, but Pogba and Herrerra seems to be the way to go.
How is Zlatan putting up?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was signed with great fanfare in the summer. In the initial weeks of the season, the Swede scored 5 goals in as many starts. He seemed to have put all doubts to rest.
He has scored only one more since, the fortunate header in mid-week against Zorya. That in 4 starts and 2 substitute appearances.
In recent weeks, he has taken up a deeper role. To be fair, he has managed to fashion chances from there. But, the fact remains, he was signed to score bagfuls of goals.
So, seven weeks into the season, the jury is still out, on Zlatan’s performance. Only time will tell.