David Moyes will rest easier tonight after Manchester United fought back at Old Trafford, coming back from trailing Stoke City 2-1 at the half to win 3-2. The victory moves United up into eight place, where they’ll likely stay after the weekend’s action is over — unless either Hull City or Newcastle record resounding victories.
Not surprisingly for a match with five goals, the game was certainly not short on action. Much to the surprise of many that haven’t watched Manchester United this season, it was the visitors that took the early lead. Full back Erik Pieters took the ball up the left hand side before crossing it to where Peter Crouch was waiting in the middle. Jonny Evans, eager to clear the danger, directed the ball straight into Crouch. It bounced off the lanky striker, past David De Gea and into the back of the net.
United thought they’d rescued the situation in the 43rd minute. Asmir Begovic pushed aside a header from Wayne Rooney, who’d got on the end of a cross from Nani. But the ball fell to Robin van Persie, who was able to stick it in from close range. David Moyes breathed a sigh of relief.
But the United manager was back in hot water just two minutes later, when Marko Arnautovic put Stoke ahead once more. The attacker, who’d been causing the hosts problems all half, was brought down by Phil Jones. Arnautovic took the resulting free kick himself, bending his shot into the top corner to score his first goal for the Potters.
Unfortunately for Stoke, Arnautovic also picked up an injury, and the beginning of the second half saw him replaced by defender Marc Wilson — a sure sign that Marc Hughes was content to let his side sit back, soak up the pressure and ride out the lead.
Moyes tried to counter Hughes’ defensive strategy by removing Nani in favor of the lucky Adnan Januzaj. Ten minutes later, the normally conservative manager went against the grain, pulling off Tom Cleverly for Javier Hernandez, and then replacing Chris Smalling with Antonio Valencia. The substitutions paid off handsomely.
First it was Wayne Rooney, who got the equalizer in the 78th minute, heading on a cross from van Persie. Then, two minutes later, it was Chicharito that put in the winner. Again, it was a header, this time off a cross from Patrice Evra. Despite the return of both Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron, the normally stingy Stoke were simply falling apart, letting United carve them open to get to the goal.
Manchester United starting XI: De Gea; Smalling (Valencia 76), Jones, Evans, Evra; Nani (Januzaj 58), Carrick, Cleverley (Hernandez 68), Kagawa; Rooney, van Persie
Subs: Lindegaard, Rafael, Fellaini, Young
Goals: van Persie 43, Rooney 78, Hernandez 80
Stoke starting XI: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters; Walters, Palacios (Whelan 70), Ireland (Adam 82) Nzonzi, Arnautovic (Wilson 46); Crouch
Subs: Sorensen, Jones, Assaidi, Wilkinson
Goals: Crouch 4, Arnautovic 45