Manchester United 4-0 Stoke City Match Report

Wayne Rooney

Manchester United’s 4 goal defeat of Stoke City on the final day was not enough as Chelsea, as expected, destroyed Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge to take the Premier League title. Their mammoth 8-0 win over the Latics certainly impressed but United fans could at least look back at the half time state of affairs and lament the overly generous officiating that the West London side have been the beneficiaries of this term.

Sir Alex Ferguson went for a 4-4-2 in attempt to spell out the attacking message to the visitors even though there was an impending feeling of doom among the home faithful. But by the time Old Trafford had managed to shake off any collective pre-match anxiety their hopes suffered a blow when news of a Chelsea goal – scored by Nicolas Anelka with Malouda in an offside position – filtered through.

Dimitar Berbatov had retained a starting place despite his hatful of missed efforts last week and in the first quarter of the game was guilty of missing another hat-trick’s worth of chances. First, he was played through by Rooney and saw his effort blocked by Wilkinson – then, headed a couple of Nani crosses over, the second clipping the top of the crossbar. On the half hour United did get their breakthrough when Ryan Giggs’ corner was met by Vidic and the Serb’s header pinballed off too Stoke defenders, and landed at the feet of Darren Fletcher less than a yard out. Fletcher duly converted.

The Potters’ resistance was far greater than their recent capitulation at Stamford Bridge, but United were still playing well – the next 7 minutes summed up the season, when Chelsea were the beneficiaries of some more refereeing help, Frank Lampard converting a penalty that saw Wigan reduced to ten men.

Gary Neville had a cheeky effort comfortably saved before Ryan Giggs’ doubled the relinquishing champions lead. Dimitar Berbatov did well with a strong forward surge after receiving Rooney’s pass, and drilled a cross across goal. Giggs was there arriving from the right to side foot home from 12 yards and seal the result with 8 minutes of the first half still to play. Rooney could have put his name on the scoresheet after another good piece of play by Berbatov but Huth snuffed it out.

With the end┬áresult a formality and all eyes on Stamford Bridge, it was no surprise that with the ascendancy handed to them by the officials, Chelsea ran riot and scored 6 more over a despondent Wigan side that had already conceded 9 in one game in their travels. Rather more surprising was the bizarre nature of the Stoke supporters at Old Trafford. They have attained quite a good reputation for their vocal support at the Brittania but seemed intent on ruining all of that deserved goodwill. Their limp display at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago was quite rightly put down to “holiday fever” but it became clear throughout the second half that there was a deep rooted hatred of United, as the travelling fans cheered every goal scored in London – despite no particular notable affinity with Chelsea – sung strange songs such as “you’re gonna win f*ck all”, despite evidence to the contrary, and worst of all, started with the Munich songs.

United’s second half performance defied the fact that they knew they would be replaced as Champions as they relentlessly attacked the visitors – Nani had a chance from a Rooney pass and Scholes chipped wide, though it was already 3-0 by then – Fletcher’s clever reverse found Rooney and the forward’s trick was brilliant and unselfish, making space to fire across goal and ex-Red Devil Danny Higginbotham was only able to divert it into his own goal via the crossbar.

Edwin van der Sar was called upon to make two spectacular saves; first from Rory Delap and second from Danny Pugh – that little spell served no purpose than to prove Stokes proper commitment to the game where it had been sorely lacking 2 weeks ago. Ji-Sung Park, on for Rooney after he had pulled up with a groin injury, made it 4 and a confirmed bittersweet last day hammering when he headed in Ryan Giggs’ corner.

The classy visiting voices wrapped up their own performance after the game when continuing their sick chants through Sir Alex’s public address to the Old Trafford crowd. If nothing else in defeat they were able to at least cement United fans’ hope that they will be relegated and take their pathetic idea of what it means to support their own team with them.

The recriminations will now begin regarding United’s own shortcomings in the title race. Lacking guile in midfield? Perhaps. Lacking a convincing alternative for Rooney either in shape or personnel? Probably. Found short after a spell where 8 first team defenders were injured in the winter? Most definitely.

Regardless of the circumstances, pushing for a record breaking fourth consecutive title was always going to be a tough ask because it has never been done before. Chelsea, remember, have only just got their fourth ever. That task was made impossible because of the defining intervention of a Liverpool supporting referee, a Liverpool player who didn’t want Manchester United to win, and another poor refereeing decision with the score at 0-0 at Stamford Bridge in the final game. The worst thing is, this didn’t need to happen. Chelsea may well have won at Old Trafford, may well have won at Anfield, and would no doubt have won today.

There will be no speculation, no investigation into the abhorrent – and in the case of the first two, corrupt – set of circumstances that lead to Chelsea wrestling the title away from Manchester United. But, it should at least appease the United fans in knowing that the league table on this occasion has lied. It didn’t need to, though.

Ratings : van der Sar 8, Neville 7, Ferdinand 7, Vidic 7, Evra 7, Nani 8, Fletcher 7, Scholes 8 (Gibson 7), *Giggs 9, Rooney 7 (Park 7), Berbatov 7 (Macheda 7)

3 Comments on Manchester United 4-0 Stoke City Match Report

  1. Dave Whelan could have refereed the game and Wigan still wouldn’t have looked any more capable.

    And Gary Caldwell is a fucking moron. He’s guilty of terminal stupidity and has been for years.

    And, personally, rather than worry myself with things that may or may not have unfairly influenced Chelsea’s chances when there were iffy decisions that kept us in the title race in the first place, I’d rather look at the multitude of games where we were our own worst enemies:

    – Burnley away
    – Sunderland at home
    – Stamford Bridge
    – Villa at home
    – Blackburn away

    By my count we should have got another 9+ points out of those games.

    I’d rather give Chelsea a Well Done (a team doesn’t score 100+ goals for no reason) and try not to let us finishing second by a single point gloss over an important fact: We stayed in the title race in spite of a lot of our performances, not because of them. If the squad stays as it is (though we know Hernandez and Smalling are coming in, who knows how United-ready they’ll be next season?) one of two things is going to happen. Either we’ll find out the result were right and the performances undersold us, or that the performances were right and were lucky to grind out as many results as we did.

    Frankly I’d rather we accepted it is what it is and worry about ourselves.

  2. I know what you’re saying; and you’re definitely more gracious and sporting than I am in this scenario but honestly I would have rather lost by 8 points and not have the question of Mike Dean and Steven Gerrard ringing round my head. I have tried to at least be a little gracious in acknowledging they probably wouldn’t have needed that assistance but the fact of the matter is tey have and it has been pivotal.

    As it stands regardless of our own shortcomings, those two made the defining contribution to the title race. Our players, whether or not we think they underperformed to the standards we expect, still put in a title winning effort but it was taken away from them not by the team that won the trophy but by two other people. I’ve elaborated further on the new blog that’s up.

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