[Premier League] Stoke City 1-1 Manchester United
Stoke: Ryan Shawcross (2)
ManUtd: Radamel Falcao (26)
Radamel Falcao earned Manchester United a battling point as the Reds fought back from going behind early against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
The Colombian striker struck from close range on 26 minutes after the Reds had fallen a goal down to a neat finish from ex-United defender Ryan Shawcross.
Another former Red, Mame Biram Diouf, wasted a chance to double the lead when he shot wide, before Falcao pounced for his third strike of the season. Robin van Persie went close to putting Louis van Gaal’s men in front in the second half, but Stoke’s Peter Crouch rattled the woodwork with a header after the break.
Chances were few and far between as the game wound down, but United stood firm to extend the unbeaten run to 10 games.
Louis van Gaal reshuffled his defensive unit by bringing Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling back into the starting 11 in place of Antonio Valencia and Paddy McNair, but the fit-again pair were watching a former Red defender put the hosts ahead inside just two minutes. An unmarked Crouch nodded the first corner of the match down to Shawcross, who was free to divert the ball past David De Gea from close range.
United fought to shake off the early shock in the blustery conditions and dominated possession, having a half-hearted penalty appeal against Jonathan Walters for handball ignored, until Diouf wasted a golden chance to double the home side’s lead. The Senegalese shook Jonny Evans off a high ball into the area, but then missed his opportunity to score against his old club by curling the ball high and wide.
And United made Diouf pay in fine style by equalising from a Wayne Rooney corner. Michael Carrick’s flicked header wrong-footed the Stoke defence and Falcao turned the ball home with customary predatory instinct.
Playing into the strong wind before the break saw Stoke try to use the conditions to their advantage, and a teasing cross from Marko Arnautovic that swirled into the box forced Shaw into putting the ball dangerously close over his own crossbar.
The hard-fought nature of the match, which had seen Robin van Persie and Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic clash before half-time, continued after the break with Stoke unsuccessfully claiming for a handball in the United area by Smalling, who was fortunate not to concede a spot-kick.
But the Reds went close to taking the lead when a sublime flicked shot from van Persie flew just wide on 67 minutes, but within minutes Stoke twice nearly went ahead. Crouch’s back-header hit De Gea’s left-hand post, and seconds later Smalling’s deflection took a rasping Diouf shot just wide.
Ashley Young limped off injured with 15 minutes left, just before the United defence dealt with a spate of Stoke corners where Mark Hughes’ side tried to make their height and physicality pay off. Adnan Januzaj, on for Shaw at left wing-back, created a half-chance for van Persie that the striker turned wide. But it was a rare outright scoring opportunity in the latter stages of the match, and United came away from a testing day in the Potteries with a valuable point and third place in the table still intact.
Stoke: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; Walters, Nzonzi, Whelan, Arnautovic (Assaidi 81); Diouf, Crouch.
Unused subs: Butland, Bardsley, Huth, Wilson, Adam, Shenton.
Manchester United: De Gea, Young (Rafael 75), Jones, Smalling, Evans, Shaw (Januzaj 64), Carrick, Mata, Rooney, van Persie, Falcao (Herrera 64).
Unused subs: Lindegaard, Blackett, Fletcher, Wilson.