Stoke City were looking to avoid losing four Premier League games in a row for the first time since February 2012. Manchester United have won 10 and lost none of the 11 Premier League meetings with the Potters. Manchester United have earned 20 points away from home this season, only Arsenal (26) and Tottenham (25) have more. Robin van Persie has scored a goal in five of his last six Premier League appearances (five goals in total).
On a day of disappointment for David Moyes, the same problem reared it’s ugly head again, though not all of them were down to poor luck. It can be argued that Moyes doesn’t have the sufficient quality, notably, players such as Tom Cleverley, and despite his recent promising form, Ashley Young.
However, some blame must be levelled at the United manager and his frankly regressive tactics. With such creative talents as Juan Mata, Adnan Januzaj, Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, it would make sense to play the ball on the floor and work the ball into the box. Yet, whenever United claimed the ball on the wing, they would attempt to hurl the ball into the box onto the head of Van Persie or Rooney.
Now, I understand Stoke are trying to be more progressive and play the ball on the floor, but they still have one of the most physically imposing squads in the league, and crossing the ball at them will bear little fruit, as 5 completed crosses out of 34 shows. Yet, it’s not through lack of chances, United created 13, but a combination of misfiring attackers and semi-resilient defending was enough to keep Stoke in the game sufficiently, and United out of it. Furthermore, United attempted 47 long balls, completing only 13 of them during the game. As mentioned earlier, United, and Moyes’ failure to adapt their tactics to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses will result in them dropping many more points this season and Moyes doesn’t have the physical presence of Fellaini, for the time being, to win these headed duels, just the diminutive Juan Mata and Ashley Young.
Of course, the players are also to blame for executing the manager’s plans in such poor fashion, while United were hindered by injuries to Jonny Evans and Phil Jones. That almost half of United’s attacks came down the left wing, where Patrice Evra partnered Ashley Young, illustrates the manager’s failure to get the most out of his new playmaker. Mata must wonder whether constantly looking for the wide option is the best use of his talents. And yet, it wasn’t exactly as if Stoke dominated the game, United did have chances, and limited Stoke’s. They were beaten from a dead ball situation which is understandable, but provided they iron out these defensive mistakes and alter their tactics accordingly, things should turn slightly better for United. At least against teams such as Stoke.
Credit to Stoke, though, for defending robustly, as they proved old habits die hard. 48 out of 48 completed clearances, 24 out of 24 headed clearances completed, they may have tried to adapt their style, but defending, at the Britannia, Stoke are still one tough nut to crack, and United are just the next team to be scalped by the Potters, despite their inconsistent season.