Copa Libation–Manchester United v Stoke City

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Drink:  Rum and Sprite

Snack:  Ramen noodles and shrimp

I got called into work so I missed the match live, and despite my best attempts I knew the score before watching the replay.  The accompanying tension was gone so I tried to focus on what United was doing with their personnel and to see if the team has really turned the corner or is just enjoying an easier run of fixtures.

The Reds went with a similar line up as the Hull match, but the big news was no Rooney, who was replaced with James Wilson up top. Always room for improvement especially in hold up play, but he did well, and his energy and effort are much appreciated. His miss in the second half could have been costly. It only took 42 minutes for RvP to be offisde, and while it was not his best game, it was hard to find the ball against a compact Stoke defense.  And he did have a wonderful layoff to Herrera.

Fellaini had another solid effort, and he has really turned it around.  Whereas last year he just fouled and passed to the other team, he is now breaking up play, keeping possession, making a difference. After all those missed/unscored headers thus far this season, he finally came good, with a great ball from Herrera and the Stoke player ball watching.  On another day he might have had a hat trick.  His neck “injury” was mildly hilarious and unfortunately led to a goal.  I do worry about size and stature of his midfield teammates Mata and Herrera moving forward.  As for Carrick, with Stoke putting up a much greater fight than Hull, he was not as prominent.

Young and Valencia were used as outside backs again.  They were put under a little more pressure than against Hull and Young got forward all match, while Valencia stayed back until the second half.  Young is a mixed bag, as teammates did not find him quick enough and then he is right footed player on the left hand side, which leads to poor crossing and delayed decisions.  The lack of cover in front of these two is a little worrying as sometimes the midfield, which is playing very narrow, can be caught out in transition.  Smalling, after that brain fart against City, has been, dare I say?, inspired. DDG had almost nothing to do until the very very end and saved a great header to secure the points.

Surprised that LvG didn’t go to bench earlier, having just played on Saturday.  I was worried that fatigue might let the Potters back in, plus I would like to see Falcao and Januzaj get more game time to increase their fitness and sharpness.

I didn’t know much about Stoke, but got to see Geoff Cameron play as a holding midfielder.  Thought he did a decent job breaking up the attack and starting attacks, but Phil Neville, who was commentating on the game, was having a real love fest on the American.  I like the look of Assaidi on the left side. Quick, direct and decent footwork.  Got United to back up but was not able to create as much as should have. By the way, is Stephen Ireland Amish now?

Manchester United v Stoke City - Premier League

He operated from right side of the Stoke midfield and his passing was so effortless.  Full credit to Nzonzi, who scored out of nothing.  Diouf was invisible leading the line, which was a combination of turnovers and Stoke trying to keep the ball rather than just forcing it long.  However he nearly salvaged a draw with two decent attempts at the end.

Overall, there were very few fouls, with almost no whistles in the first half.  The ref seemed to do good job and was used his card judiciously.  Both teams possessed the ball but couldn’t break each other down until a solid stretch in the second half, wherein United turned the screw but final ball was lacking.  The win was nice and probably on balance deserved.  The squad has grit and determination, which was in short supply last year, and now have two big tests next week—Southampton away and Liverpool at home.

On the KitNerd front, the Reds wore their standard home kit, while Stoke wore a strip produced by Warrior.  It was simple, using the ever present sash and makes me wonder why can’t all Warrior strips be that way.  Pretty sure last weekend’s match against Liverpool was the first time two Warrior manufactured clubs played each other.

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