Stoke down but not out
15th November 2008
As I walked towards Old Trafford I was asked what I thought the score would be. Whilst any Stoke fan would say that dreams are made of a Potters' win and a point would be magic, realism made me reply by saying that I just hoped we wouldn't be thumped and that I could say that we gave the European champions a run for their money. As it was, we did get thumped on the pitch with some classic goals - two from the one person you hoped wouldn't score, but you just knew would - Ronaldo. But off the pitch, there was no doubt who won. The travelling Potters' fans sang their hearts out throughout and comfortably drowned out the 72,000 visiting tourists packing the rest of Old Trafford.
Stoke were always on the back foot after Ronaldo's 3rd minute free kick from the edge of the penalty area was not seen to by Thomas Sorensen. After that we recovered some composure that allowed us to deal with the Red threat until seconds before half-time, just as Tony Pulis would have been planning to regroup whilst just 1-0 down. But those plans were shattered with the strike from Carrick and United were clinical just four minutes into the restart with a third from Berbatov.
Now 3-0 down, heads did drop and even Stoke's potent weapon in Rory Delap was of little use with little space around the pitch to give the midfielder enough room for a decent run-up much to the faintly audible relief of the few vocal Old Trafford faithful.
I'd have taken a 3-0 defeat on the chin and moved on to West Brom next weekend, but the two final goals from United youngster, Danny Welbeck on 84 minutes and a final one from that man Ronaldo again, with just a couple of minutes remaining, really just reminded us of the gulf that there is between those clubs coming up from the Championship and the likes of the League Champions.
A fifth (and unlucky) booking of the season for Ricardo Fuller means that he will miss the West Brom match next week, but with the Jamaican now away on international duty and only due back on Saturday morning, he was always extremely doubtful for a starting position, so maybe the booking can be considered somewhat fortuitous.
Still, this was never a match we would have ever have had pencilled in for points, but with two consecutive home games coming up against the Baggies and Hull City, we should expect quite different performances from this Stoke team.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick, Fletcher (Gibson 63), Park (Welbeck 63), Tevez (Manucho 74), Berbatov.
Subs not used: Foster, Anderson, Nani, Rafael Da Silva.
Stoke City: Sorensen, Griffin (Wilkinson 79), Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham, Olofinjana (Cresswell 31), Diao, Amdy Faye, Delap, Fuller (Kitson 68), Sidibe
Subs not used: Simonsen, Cort, Whelan, Tonge.