Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Saturday September 26 2009
Second Half goals from Dimitar Berbatov and John O`Shea saw Manchester United return to the top of the league after victory at a lacklustre Stoke. A disappointing performance from the home side killed any chances that we had of upsetting Fergies side as they found their potentially dangerous trip rather easy going.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis made just the one change from the draw at Bolton last week as Liam Lawrence came in for injured striker Ricardo Fuller leaving Dave Kitson upfront on his own.
Sir Alex sent out the majority of his best players such as Rooney, Ferdinand, Scholes and Fletcher and there was also a start for former Stoke keeper Ben Foster who enjoyed a polite ripple of applause from the home faithful.
Straight from the kick-off United assaulted the Stoke goal and almost immediately took the lead as in-form Wayne Rooney almost found the net with an audacious over-head kick.
It took Stoke time to settle down whereas United hit the ground running with Nani going close with a curled effort past the far post after a quick 1-2 with Patrice Evra.
The Champions were right on top and should have punished the hosts in the 8th minute as some slack defending from Ryan Shawcross allowed Antonio Valencia through on goal with only Sorensen to beat. Fortunately the summer signing dragged his effort wide and you have to question whether it had been Ronaldo instead of Valencia would it have been a different outcome. The answer to that would be yes - but who cares.
Up the other end Liam Lawrence had Stoke`s first meaningful effort on goal. After bursting into space inside the box the Irishman flashed an effort across the face of goal inches in front of the incoming Dave Kitson.
The supporters began to grow frustrated with the Potters as poor passing and dire communication was constantly being undone by United. Rooney almost took advantage but his cross come shot didn`t receive the touch it required.
Manchester United`s star performer Paul Scholes showed us all yet again why he is one of United`s all time great players with a fantastic array of passing and moving. The Stoke midfield 3 of Glenn Whelan, Dean Whitehead and Rory Delap couldn`t keep tabs on him throughout as he rolled back the years.
The only Potter who gave a good account of himself during the match was Thomas Sorensen. The Great Dane flung himself superbly to his left to deny a vicious attempt from Nani to keep the scores level at half-time.
It was the Portuguese winger who was the first taken off with Ryan Giggs brought on as his replacement shortly after half-time.
Stoke started the second half with more desire and hunger as they applied their first bit of pressure on United with a couple of corners and missiles from Rory Delap in his 400th club appearance.
But in typical United style it was they who scored the first goal. After some lapse play by Rory Delap, United swiftly moved the play from right to left to Ryan Giggs who in acres of room superbly cut back for Dimitar Berbatov to tap home.
Pulis decided to change the formation and threw on both James Beattie and Tuncay but as soon as the changes happened Stoke fell even further behind.
An in-swinging Giggs free-kick was met near the front post by the unmarked John O`Shea who expertly guided the ball into the far corner to all but kill off the Potters.
There were further chances for Giggs and Rooney but United comfortably played out the remaining minutes to claim their 5th straight league victory and return to the top of the Premier League.
Next up for the Potters is a difficult trip to in-form Everton next Sunday before entertaining West Ham after the international break.
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Date:Saturday September 26 2009
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