Stoke miss out despite Tuncay stunner
Manchester United ended their winless away record as Javier Hernandez`s two close range strikes were enough to see off an unlucky Stoke. The Mexican headed United the lead mid way through the first half and we had to wait until the last ten minutes for anymore goalmouth action. Turkish striker Tuncay scored an absolute belter to draw the host`s level before Hernandez popped up with five minutes left to snatch the points. United can certainly count themselves lucky that Gary Neville wasn`t sent off on his 600th United appearance for a lunge at Matthew Etherington, while already in the refs notebook.
Tony Pulis made just one change from the side that lost at Bolton last week. Dean Whitehead`s accumulation of five yellow cards already this season saw him suspended. In came Marc Wilson to make just his second Potters start since moving from Portsmouth this summer. Ricardo Fuller failed a late fitness test so he was left out of the squad. Tuncay was the benefiter as he sat alongside Eidur Gudjohnsen on the bench.
In a frantic start United got the ball down and zipped it around with precision as they tested the home defence. Dimitar Berbatov almost got on the end of a superb through ball from the vintage Paul Scholes but Sorensen raced from his line to squash the danger. Abdoulaye Faye and Ryan Shawcross coped well with the intelligent movement of Berbatov and Hernandez but the visitors were looking dangerous when they ventured inside the Stoke half.
At the other end Rory Delap`s throws looked dangerous and the wingers of Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington were supplying plenty of crosses on either flank, looking for Kenwyne Jones. While the Potters were attacking Edwin Van Der Sar`s goal, United broke at pace but fluffed the chance of making Stoke pay. Berbatov carried the ball half the pitch before slipping in Nani down the right, his cross to the far side found Hernandez but his knock down was poor and cost Fergies side a real chance.
Robert Huth got on the end of a Delap throw but glanced it wide, and Delap himself missed the target from 35 yards with Van Der Sar out of position. But against the run of play Hernandez put United ahead.
Some quick thinking from a corner saw the Potters caught cold. Evra took it short to Nani, who floated a deep cross to the back post. Nemanja Vidic rose highest and headed back across the face of goal for Hernandez to plant an intelligent header past Sorensen.
Abdoulaye Faye, who had started well, sold Sorensen short with a bad back pass. The big Dane rushed from his line in a bid to pip Hernandez and just reached, but while clearing his lines it hit the 22 year old and flew just over the bar.
Delap was still causing problems with his sling shot throw-ins. A couple of goalmouth scrambles followed of which the Potters couldn`t get the decisive touch. Going forward Kenwyne Jones struggled against the strong pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, Jermaine Pennant couldn`t get his crossing going at all and Jon Walters had a poor game. Matthew Etherington was the only one who enjoyed any kind of success and he terrorised Gary Neville all afternoon. The former England full-back earned himself a yellow for a desperate lunge, and it still defies belief how referee Andre Mariner saw fit to award just a free-kick when the United legend hacked down our tricky winger.
Neville was subsequently brought off at half-time and in his place came Wes Brown, back in Fergies good books.
Danny Collins, who had been enjoying his best spell as a Potters player, unfortunately went off with an injury so Danny Higginbotham came on against his former club. Ryan Shawcross was also immense at the back, showing Fergie just who Rio Ferdinand`s replacement is in the England side and possibly, but hopefully not, the United side. The 23 year-old contained the genius Berbatov throughout the game, producing his best performance of the season.
In terms of action, the second half was relatively quiet as both sides battled it out in the midfield. Paul Scholes was an expert in possession again but Stoke`s Marc Wilson also impressed with the ball at his feet. Rory Delap enjoyed a fine performance in his favoured central midfield, giving Pulis a headache when Whitehead returns next week.
Jon Walters was withdrawn shortly after the hour and replaced by Tuncay. The Turk was immediately up for it as he closed down the United back four and hurried the likes of Scholes, Fletcher and O`Shea.
Pulis was showing attacking intent but so were United who so nearly killed the game off in the 70th minute. Berbatov found space behind Robert Huth on the left and suddenly United were breaking at speed. As the defence dashed back, holes appeared and Berbatov crossed to the far side for Hernandez to net his second. Unfortunately for him his volley at full stretch flashed just inches past the far post.
Pennant was replaced by Gudjohnsen as Stoke really went for it. The Icelandic showed some neat touches and clever movement and it is clear that he is losing the weight and becoming sharper as he trains more and more.
Then out of nowhere a goal of the season contender saw the Britannia rise to its feet in applause for one of its favourite players. Scholes uncharacteristically conceded possession straight to Jones who played a delayed pass to Gudjohnsen. United dashed back as he layed it off for Wilson who played an exquisite first time ball out to Tuncay on the right wing. Tuncay surged towards the box before cutting in onto his less favoured left foot and he whipped a spectacular and unstoppable shot into the top corner. That tasted sweet for the striker who is in desperate need of some game time.
But like all classy teams do, United found a way to win when all looked against them. Berbatov again picked the ball outside the box and crossed for Scholes. His flick found Evra whose shot was turned in from 6 yards by Hernandez to give United a 2-1 victory.
This leaves Stoke 13th and they face two tough games at Everton and Sunderland over the next two weeks.