[Premier League] Manchester United 3-2 Stoke City
ManUtd: Robin van Persie (43), Wayne Rooney (78), Javier Hernandez (80)
Stoke: Peter Crouch (3), Marko Arnautovic (45)
Just as Manchester United looked set to suffer a shock home defeat to Stoke City, the Barclays Premier League champions produced a stirring late comeback to secure a memorable 3-2 victory over Mark Hughes' side.
First half goals from Peter Crouch and Marko Arnautovic bookended Robin van Persie's equaliser, and the visitors were on the brink of their first win at Old Trafford since 1976 until goals in the 78th and 80th minutes from Wayne Rooney and Chicharito flipped the match on its head.
The delirium which gripped Old Trafford was totally at odds with the air of frustration which had prevailed for five sixths of the game, from the moment Stoke forged ahead with their first attack of the game. Crouch unwittingly deflected a Jonny Evans clearance past the grounded David De Gea, and the Spaniard made a fine stop from Jonathan Walters and Crouch prodded just over, as Stoke made the clearer chances.
United levelled shortly before the break, however, as Asmir Begovic parried Rooney's close-range header but was unable to stop van Persie from drilling in the rebound. Yet rather than provide a springboard for the hosts, however, the visitors moved ahead again almost immediately. After Phil Jones had been penalised on the edge of his own area, Arnautovic curled a free-kick in off the underside of De Gea’s crossbar to send Stoke into the interval with the lead.
The second half was an altogether more fractious affair, with a spate of bookings dished out by referee Lee Mason. Stoke's impressive defending continued, but eventually collapsed under the weight of mounting pressure, as Rooney arced a brilliant header over Begovic from van Persie's corner, before substitute Hernandez nodded in Patrice Evra's deep cross to send Old Trafford wild.
The Match: The tone for a frustrating afternoon was set when Peter Crouch inadvertantly knocked in the visitors' third-minute opener, and after Marko Arnautovic quickly negated Robin van Persie's leveller. The champions laid bare their fortitude, however, with a late rally which prompted two goals in three minutes, as Wayne Rooney brilliantly headed in a van Persie corner and substitute Chicharito nodded Patrice Evra's cross in to seal a victory drenched in equal measures of euphoria and relief.
Goals: Van Persie's leveller displayed the Dutchman's predatory instincts, as he pounced to rifle home the loose ball after Asmir Begovic had brilliantly parried out Rooney's header. The Bosnian was unable to keep out Rooney's superb, arcing header from van Persie's corner to level once again, and substitute Chicharito continued his own one-man mission against Stoke with a simple header from Evra's fine cross; his fifth career goal against the Potters.
Star men: David De Gea kept the Reds in the match in the first period, making impressive stops from Jon Walters and Marko Arnautovic, and the home supporters chanted the Spaniard's name as he left the field at the end of the half. Thereafter, with Stoke's attacking ambition curtailed, Rooney came to the fore by dropping deeper and becoming a hub of midfield creativity, before a sublime equaliser to set up the late comeback.
Subplot: Three positive substitutions from David Moyes turned the game's tide. The introduction of Adnan Januzaj promptly yielded two bookings for fouls on the youngster, and the weight of United's building pressure forced Stoke to give way after the subsequent arrivals of Chicharito and Antonio Valencia.
Opposition: Mark Hughes' side have had a tough start to the season, but were clearly up for the task at Old Trafford. Compact and tenacious in defence and midfield - with Stephen Nzonzi and Wilson Palacios outstanding - they hounded United in central areas and doubled up effectively out wide. Far beyond just snuffing out the champions, however, the Potters made a string of chances themselves and were only undone by two well-worked goals from the Reds.
Move of the match: A well-worked piece of play culminated in Evra motoring down the left flank, and he picked out Chicharito with a magnificent deep cross to secure a vital victory.
In the stands: After United's boisterous trial of a home singing section during the midweek win over Real Sociedad, the travelling supporters were restored to their usual spot in the south west quadrant. Events dictated that it was the minority who were cheering loudest for most of the game, but the roar which greeted Chicharito's winner would stand comparison with most great Old Trafford soundtracks.