Man United survives League Cup storm
Both sets of players were led from the field just before the half-hour mark, with the inclement conditions at the Britannia Stadium leaving referee Mark Clattenburg unable to see the action unfolding in front of him.
In truth, there was not much to get excited about in a first half which was keenly contested but produced few opportunities of note. It became increasingly apparent that a moment of magic would be required to break the deadlock, and Ashley Young produced just that on 62 minutes as he exchanged passes with Javier Hernandez and lashed a 20-yard thunderbolt past Thomas Sorensen.
United’s second also had a touch of class about it, with skipper Patrice Evra latching onto a pass from Young, bursting into the box and curling the ball into the corner with his right foot.
By some considerable distance, the most noteworthy event of the opening half was referee Clattenburg’s decision to take the teams off when the already-poor conditions worsened. The Durham official said he simply could not see, which given how the heavy rain was being swirled round the stadium was understandable.
However, Stoke boss Mark Hughes was unimpressed and the fact his substitutes remained on the pitch throughout the squall underlined his frustration at the unscheduled interlude, which lasted exactly nine minutes and 47 seconds. The resumption brought little in the way of meaningful action.
Neither side had any penetration with their passing and two dangerous dead ball situations were wasted completely by Young. The single chance that did arrive for the visitors came thanks to Chris Smalling getting his head to Tom Cleverley’s corner.
Had a forward been at the far-post, it would have been a clear opportunity. As it was, Jonny Evans tried to control and Sorensen snaffled the ball before the United defender managed a second touch. Stoke’s conventional attempts to break the deadlock only got as close as Jonathan Walters touching Geoff Cameron’s cross away from Peter Crouch.
Prior to the rain check, United’s noisy traveling support started celebrating what they thought was an early opener from Young. Making his first start since September 28, Anderson slipped an incisive pass to Danny Welbeck, who quickly found Young. The England man fired low but his shot rippled the outside of the net, and United supporters’ celebrations were quickly cut short.
With Wayne Rooney missing, the visitors’ starting line-up had a grand total of 93 goals between them, not even half the striker’s overall tally. And without their inspiration, they labored badly. Anderson did little to change the perception of being one of the players Moyes needs to get rid of, whilst Phil Jones sat so deep in midfield he was virtually on top of the defense, a move hardly in keeping with the flamboyant days of Sir Alex Ferguson.
There was no noticeable improvement in quality as the second half began, although the weather was better and the actual play was faster. It suited United, although it took the introduction of Hernandez for Anderson for them to make it count. The Mexican forward laid the perfectly into the path of Young, who unleashed a brutal effort from 20 yards and then headed into the crowd to celebrate.
Walters wasted a glorious chance to equalize when Evra and Evans allowed an Eric Pieters cross to drop on the six-yard line, but Walters failed to make contact with the goal at his mercy. Evra made Walters pay when he finished smartly with his right foot after striding onto Young’s pass to secure a victory that also saw another late substitute appearance for Darren Fletcher.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.