Bet365 Stadium has always been a nightmare for many of the Premier League teams in the past few seasons, and is arguably the one stadium the teams look least forward to travel to. Matches here at Stoke are always hard-fought and physical. And yesterday’s match was no different.
On a stormy evening on and off the pitch at the Bet365 Stadium, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moti, who arrived from Shalke on a free transfer this season, scored a brace to end United’s 100 per cent start to the season as Stoke held United to a 2-2 draw , with defence from both the sides inconsistent and in shambles at times.
Mourinho made a couple of changes to the starting line up, with Rashford, Herrera and Darmian coming in for Martial , Mata and Blind. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was moved to the right while Pogba played in the number 10 role.
Stoke manager Phil Hughes had claimed earlier that United had “areas that are a little loose positionally” which his side would try to exploit, and that’s exactly how he set his team up to do.
Most of Stoke’s threat come from the left, having recognized the fact that Matteo Darmian is too slow in contrast to Antonio Valencia down the right.
It was all United in the first half until Stoke took the lead in the 43′ minute through Maxim Choupo-Moti when he finished coolly from a brilliant cross from Diouf down United’s left (Unsurprisingly).
United responded immediately though, as Marcus Rashford came in the way of a Paul Pogba header from a corner, scoring his 21st goal for United(Not bad for a 19 year old !). Henrikh whipped in an inviting ball from Stoke’s right corner , which was flicked on by Matic initially before the ball ended up at the back of the net.
Stoke started the second half in a much more energetic fashion as they looked to the take the attack to United. However, United took the lead in the 57th minute through Romelu Lukaku as he pounced on the rebound after Butland saved the initial shot from the Belgian, from yet another Henrikh Mkhitaryan through ball.
However, just like United in the first half, Stoke reacted swiftly as Maxim Choupo-Moti was found free at the back post from a corner and finished well , with De Gea helpless to do anything about it. Yet another defensive mistake from United, and Jones wouldn’t want to relive it again.
Later in the game, Lukaku missed a difficult yet golden chance to score the winner as he couldn’t keep down his volley from a brilliant Anthony Martial cross from down the right. And in spite of United piling up the pressure and coming close at times, United failed to find a winner and thereby ending their perfect start to the campaign.
Meanwhile off the pitch, the managers entangled in a slight feud in the second half. Mourinho did not take it lightly as Hughes shoved the Portugese and asked to him to ‘F*** off!’ when Mourinho went inside his rival’s technical area.
Mourinho responded by refusing to shake Hughes’ hand and made it a point to shake the hands of every member of Stoke’s staff room after the end of the game.
Both the goalkeepers stole the show yesterday. Butland made excellent saves in the entire match and was occasionally helped by Kurt Zouma, easily the best defender on the pitch.
His save late on in the match as he pushed the ball away from his own player (Zouma) makes you wonder how on earth is Joe Hart is still starting for England.
And David De Gea was no less brilliant, as always. He made decent saves through the game , and his one instinctive save from a Jese volley from close range proves why he is easily one of the best goalkeepers in the world, if not the best.
It’s a pity that he let in two goals as he couldn’t do anything about either of them, no thanks to United defence yesterday.
United defence was uncharacteristically in shambles yesterday. Eric Bailey and Phil Jones, both in terrific form of late, was guilty of both the goals Stoke scored. In Stoke’s opener, Jones failed to cover the front post and Bailey failing to track his man.
And Stoke’s second was no less different.. Phil Jones had a nightmare and slipped, failing to keep track of his man, complimented by some weak Darmian defending. Jose will be hoping it’s just an off day for his back-line and the fact that United dropped two points rather than gained one must surely be swimming in his mind.
United have only themselves to blame for it. Still at the top of the table, so something to cheer about for the Reds.