5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 4 – 2 Stoke City


By Thomas Doyle

1. Attack is the only form of defence at the moment

Despite winning by two clear goals, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side once again did things the hard way. An early deficit could have become much worse had David de Gea not made two smart stops to deny Charlie Adam and John Walters. United have scored six goals at home in the last two games, yet only have three points to show for it, having conceded five in the process.

The ease with which Michael Kightly broke through United’s centre was startling, raising uneasy questions over what could happen against such a player as Yaya Toure or Juan Mata as the season progresses. A win is a win, but it seems as though Ferguson’s side will have to bag an awful lot of goals to enjoy success this season if the jellied middle will leave anything but a bitter taste.

2. Rooney on song – eventually…

After starting the game in the worst possible fashion, Wayne Rooney made amends for his own goal with a fine display, scoring two in the correct end and also setting up Danny Welbeck with a sumptuous cross. The Croxteth-born striker may currently be playing second fiddle to Robin van Persie, but looked determined to remind Manchester United fans of his abilities on Saturday. All three strikers looked comfortable interchanging positions, and perhaps most importantly, all looked happy to be playing with each other. When Rooney is enjoying his football, very few can get near him, and that was evident on Saturday. More of the same please Wayne…

3. Staying close to Chelsea is key

While defeats to Tottenham and Everton have exposed the limitations of the side already this season, United are only four points off top-placed Chelsea, who have had a fantastic start to the season. A clash against the Londoners awaits next weekend, and the lead can be cut to one point. With such exceptional attacking talent, Ferguson’s men will surely be in with a chance at Stamford Bridge, but next weekend’s clash cut already be one of the pivotal matches of the season. There is cautious optimism around the club this season, and an away win would make fans start to believe the title could really be coming back to Old Trafford.

4. Evra is playing his way out of a funk

I will admit that these articles usually feature my condemnation of Patrice Evra, but the French left-back was in fine form against Stoke, getting forward at every opportunity and stretching the narrow Stoke back line to create space for the forwards. It has never been his attacking game that has been the problem for United, but it was refreshing to see such measured verve and dynamism from Evra, who is under pressure for his place in the team with the acquisition of Alexander Buttner in the summer. He has to improve defensively, but with all-action displays such as on Saturday, Evra is still a valuable player for Ferguson.

5. Welbeck is off the mark

The beginning of the 2012-13 season has been a frustrating one for Danny Welbeck; many fans and presumably Welbeck himself may have assumed he would be Wayne Rooney’s first-choice strike partner after a fine first full season at Old Trafford, but the signing of Robin van Persie changed everything. You simply cannot buy a player like that and put him on the bench, and Welbeck has had to accept he is now an option, rather than the option. Therefore it was vital to see him grab a well-taken header against Stoke, cementing his role as third-choice striker ahead of Javier Hernandez – quite where all this leaves the Mexican is anybody’s guess, but if Welbeck keeps scoring, he will keep playing.

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