Manchester United today overcame another obstacle in the way of their 20th League Title in the shape of Stoke City. Matches in the past at the Britannia Stadium have proven to be the downfall of many a top flight team, as Stokes uncompromising style has intimidated them into submission. However, times have changed and the days of Rory Delap`s massive throw-ins are a thing of the past. That, and a few other personnel changes, has meant that manager Tony Pulis has had to make changes to the style of their play. Unfortunately for him, this has come at a cost. His team no longer frightens opponents. Moreover, the fans, who have long called themselves the `twelfth man`, are staring to lose faith and there have even been the odd calls for Pulis to be sacked!
In today`s game, Manchester United had to stop a run of two games which they had lost; against Chelsea in the FA Cup and the league game at Old Trafford against Manchester City. Sir Alex had almost a full squad from which to choose, so he was able to put out a particularly strong and offensive team. He had a midfield that included Wayne Rooney, whilst up front he had Van Persie and Hernandez.
Sir Alex must have wanted a good start by United and even he must have been pleasantly surprised when United scored within 3 minutes of the start, with Michael Carrick getting the toe end of his boot to stab in from close quarters after a corner. That gave them the springboard to launch an assault on the Stoke goal, but after about 15 minutes they seemed to run out of steam. Stoke started to come more into the game, and by half time, United were glad to leave the field.
In the second half, Stoke seemed more purposeful and started to try and get more into the Manchester United half of the pitch. It was therefore a great relief when United were awarded a penalty after Hernandez was fouled in the penalty area. Up stepped Van Persie to score and break his drought of games without a goal. He was so pleased he even ran over the Sir Alex and gave him a hug!
United controlled the game after the second goal and basically saw it out until the referee whistled for full time. Manchester United is now 15 points clear at the top with 6 games left. The next two games are against West Ham away on Wednesday night and then Aston Villa at home on the following Sunday. A further 6 points from those two games will mean that they will only need 1 point from the remaining 4 games. That assumes, of course that Manchester City win their intervening games. If they drop points, United will win the title even earlier.