[Capital One Cup] Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United
ManUtd: Ashley Young (62), Patrice Evra (78)
Manchester United survived a freakish first-half hailstorm to beat Stoke City 2-0 and book a place in the Capital One Cup semi-finals courtesy of Ashley Young's first goal in 19 months and a rare right-footed Patrice Evra effort.
The Reds faced a typically resolute Stoke home display and the game had to be stopped for around eight minutes during the first half as hailstones rattled through the Britannia Stadium and forced referee Mark Clattenburg to lead the players off the field.
The opening 45 minutes offered little to excite the senses, except that stormy interlude, but Young had its best chance after three minutes with an angled shot from 15 yards that hit the side-netting. On 22 minutes Anderson tested Thomas Sorensen with a low drive, while Stoke fizzed a few dangerous crosses into the United box without truly threatening David De Gea's goal.
In the second half, Evra and Welbeck had half-chance headers from corners, but David Moyes recognised a need for greater urgency and speed to his side's play. Javier Hernandez replaced Anderson before the hour and made an immediate impact in the build-up to the first goal. But Young's finish was simply breathtaking, rifling the ball into the roof of the net on 62 minutes - his first goal since May 2012 when he scored against Swansea.
Young then played a part in United's second, laying the ball inside for Evra, who cut into the box and curled a right-foot shot into the top corner to seal victory.
The Match The Britannia Stadium can be inhospitable at the best of times, with a vociferous home support and an often physically-demanding contest in store, so Stoke's summoning of a first-half hailstorm, so disruptive it forced referee Mark Clattenburg to halt the match for around eight minutes, all seemed part of the Potteries' 'welcome'. It was an occasion for rarities of sorts, Ashley Young bagging his first United goal since May 2012, and Reds left-back Patrice Evra completing the scoring, with his right foot no less.
The goals Young was fouled by Wilson Palacios on the halfway line and Tom Cleverley's quick thinking gave the United winger possession in space. Young's probing pass found Javier Hernandez, who held up the ball on the edge of the box. Young didn't even wait for an invitation to strike it as he rocketed a shot past Thomas Sorensen. He was then involved in the second goal, attacking down the left and sliding the ball inside to Evra, who said afterwards that he "only uses his right foot to get onto the bus". But using his weaker foot he steered his shot into the far corner of the net with aplomb.
Star men Danny Welbeck appeared confident after his two goals at Aston Villa and for the first hour looked like the man to make something happen in attack. But Young must take credit for breaking the deadlock with a strike of sheer class, and he played his part in teeing up Evra, who also impressed in defence alongside Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling, fending off Stoke's aerial and physical presence.
Sub-plots Wayne Rooney missed the match with a groin injury and while David Moyes hopes the no.10 is fit for the Christmas period, with Robin van Persie also on the sidelines, it's a concern for the Reds boss. At the other end of the field, Moyes fielded his 16th different back four in 26 games this term, but Rafael, Smalling, Evans and Evra earned a third clean sheet in a row. United still haven't conceded in the competition this season.
Opposition Stoke boss Mark Hughes, perhaps inspired by Sunderland's League Cup quarter-final win over Chelsea on Tuesday, went with a pretty much full-strength side. Stoke have won only three of their last 12 games but have also lost just once in eight. For an hour they showed why they're tough to beat, but the minute United prodded and probed with purpose it brought about the breakthrough.
Move of the match Young's goal was a lesson in incisive attacking that, before that point, United had lacked. Cleverley's quick free-kick, Young's penetrative pass and, after Hernandez's lay-off, his thunderous strike was a move worthy of winning the match outright.
In the stands A bumper travelling party of Reds made the short trip down the M6, braving wind, rain, hail and the usual icy reception from the Stoke crowd. As ever, United's away fans were in fine voice, running through the full repertoire of terrace anthems, including a new Adnan Januzaj song to the tune of Gilbert O'Sullivan's Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day: "I want to tell you, I might as well do, about a boy who can do anything. He comes from Belgium, his name is Adnan, Januzaj, Januzaj, Januzaj."