Manchester United squandered multiple chances in the first half against a defiant Stoke City and had to settle for a draw. Stoke, who were bottom of the Premier League at the start of play, battled to earn a point at Old Trafford and their goalkeeper Lee Grant – who is on loan from Derby County as cover for the injured Jack Butland – put in a man of the match performance to thwart Jose Mourinho’s men. Paul Pogba was biggest culprit in front of The Stretford End, fluffing a chance having been played in by Jesse Lingard and later missed the target from six yards with an unchallenged header.
Earlier on, and with barely a minute played, Zlatan Ibrahimovic should have given the home side a lead when he was through on goal, having latched on to a ball from Pogba, but side footed the ball to Grant’s right – instead of opening up his body and curling it into the bottom corner. The Swede, who played well, looked to give the keeper the eyes – but it was a superb stop and a glimpse into what would unfold over the next hour and a half. With Manchester City (later in the day) losing at Spurs, it was a great opportunity for United to close the gap at the top of the table, however – the result did not match the performance.
Jose Mourinho was frustrated with United’s inability to kill off the game in the first forty-five minutes. The Portuguese felt that this was United’s “best performance of the season”, stating that it could have been “3-0, 4-0 at half time”. United’s boss did have a point, the home side were dominant in the first half – but a combination of poor finishing and heroic goalkeeping ensured that the score remained goalless at half time. Jesse Lingard, who put in a good shift – running in behind the Stoke backline on multiple times, had a shot saved a point blank range from Grant. It was a wonderful save, demonstrating superb reflexes and astute shot stopping. Mourinho may have been right that United should have been up at the break, but it is a testament to the rookie Premier League keeper that it was 0-0.
Many United fans will cite that indeed Stoke City are in the relegation zone and that United should have picked up all three points, regardless of any goalkeeping heroics – however, the visitors were well organised under Mark Hughes and will no doubt move up the table over the next couple of weeks. Xherdan Shaqiri is a gloriously gifted wide player, with an exquisite first touch and a wand of a left foot – he will of course give many a fullback the run around this season. Joe Allen was Stoke’s best outfield player, often picking up the ball high up the pitch with multiple United players surrounding him. He was calm in possession and pounced on David De Gea’s error to snatch a late equaliser. He was the subject of an awful foul from Ander Herrera, who was lucky to stay on the field following a high challenge.
The introduction and goal from Anthony Martial was a welcomed sight for the United faithful. The French forward, who was arguably United’s best player last season, has been out of sorts – which is surely due to the well documented off field troubles in his private life. He has the potential to be world class, has lightening pace and his dribbling ability puts the opposition on the back foot. His right footed finish from the left hand side was beautifully struck to give United the lead and the pressure that followed from the home team highlighted the confidence a goal gives you. United were unlucky not to double the lead with Ibrahimovic and Eric Bailly, who was excellent yet again, going close. Unfortunately for the home crowd, it was the away team that scored the second and what would be the final goal of the game. A rare mistake from David De Gea gifted Allen the opportunity to silence Old Trafford. Again, Pogba should have scored with a header following superb cross by Marcus Rashford – however his effort cannoned back off the crossbar.
It is thirteen points from the opening seven games in the Premier League, which is three less than what United managed at the same stage last season. Liverpool are up next following the international break and despite this being Mourinho’s first match at Anfield as United boss, he will know full well of the challenge that faces him and his team.
Jose Mourinho after the game:
“It’s simple – the best Manchester United performance of the season. It could have been 3-0 or 4-0 at half-time and six or seven at the end of the game. I can’t believe the result is 1-1. It was very undeserved. I repeat – it was a much better performance than against Leicester because the result made more than the performance and today was exactly the opposite.”
“In the first half, minute one, an amazing chance with amazing football, then a few minutes later another one with Paul Pogba facing the keeper. We had three or four in the first half, we had three or four in the second half. We hit the bar. We did everything. We played good football. We touched the ball, we moved, we created so much. It was a really good performance, a performance to win by a comfortable score and, in the end, we lose two points.”
Ander Herrera after the game:
“We cannot believe we did not win this game. I think we played even better than against Leicester as we created maybe 10 or 11 chances in front of their keeper. He was their best player and that says everything. I think our fans can be proud as we did everything and tried to win.
“This is football. I believe, when you play good, you have more chances to win. I have that thought – you should play good if you want to win but this time it was not like that. I hope this is not going to happen again. When we play as well as we did, we can win maybe 6-0 or 7-0. It was unbelievable we did not win but I cannot say too much. I don’t know what to say to our fans but we have to accept it and keep working.”