Manchester United were left frustrated by Stoke City as their attempts to force a late winner proved unsuccessful. With leaders Manchester City facing tough opposition in Tottenham Hotspur later on, United absolutely needed a win to potentially close down the gap at the top of the table. Despite their best efforts against a resolute Stoke, United were not able to find a late winner and ended up drawing 1-1 having conceded a late equalizer.
Chances Gone Begging
United started the game all guns blazing, having come close within the opening minutes. Ibrahimovic was put clean through after some clever touches by Pogba to beat his man, but Grant impressively saved Zlatan’s ferocious shot. Fifteen minutes later and Pogba himself should have put United in front. After some slick buildup play by United involving a back heal pass by Ibrahimovic to Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba was put through only to drag his shot wide of the goal.
Grant was forced to make another save, this time from a chipped shot by Juan Mata. With some more quick passing by United around the box, Mata received the ball in the box and cut back to make some room for himself, before unleashing a chip which had Grant back-peddling to save. The resulting corner kick presented Pogba with another great chance to give United the lead, but the midfielder managed to head wide.
It was then Jesse Lingard’s turn to get a sight of goal from a dangerous cross by Ibrahimovic, with Grant brilliantly palming the forward’s glancing shot behind for a corner. It was the closest United went to scoring in the first half.
Stoke Grew Into The Game
Stoke City grew into the game in the second half, forcing Dea Gea to make his fair share of saves. First from Bruno Martins Indi’s looping header from Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick, although he was flagged for offside soon after. Then from Joe Allen who found himself in possession a few meters from goal, only to tamely shoot into Dea Gea’s hands. Players and fans alike were showing signs of nerves.
Having brought on Rooney and Martial on the 65 minute mark, it didn’t take much time for the pair to make their mark felt. Martial made an instant impact to put United ahead with a curling effort reminiscent of his goal-of-the-season contender against the Stoke on their last visit to Old Trafford. There was a touch of fortune however on Rooney’s part as he was caught in possession, but the ball fell nicely for Martial to strike.
Stoke were to spoil United’s party though with an 82nd minute equalizer as De Gea failed to deal properly with a low shot. Some scrappy play led to Joe Allen tapping into an empty net after the ball had landed nicely for him in front of goal.
Mourinho was pleased with United’s football though, even describing the game as one of their best performances of the season, despite the scoreline.
“It’s simple – the best Manchester United performance of the season. It could have been 3-0 or 4-0 at half-time and six or seven at the end of the game. I can’t believe the result is 1-1. It was very undeserved. I repeat – it was a much better performance than against Leicester because the result made more than the performance and today was exactly the opposite.” he told MUTV.
But ultimately he could not hide his disappointment at the result and at the fact that yet another international break will leave him without much of his squad with the Liverpool game looming.
“It’s frustrating because the result is not good, it’s frustrating because we don’t have a game in three or four days to play again, it’s frustrating because we don’t have the players to work with, but that’s football and I think everybody is frustrated but we have to be happy with the quality of our performance.”