Manchester United endured a couple of scares before eventually claiming a 4-2 victory over Stoke City at Old Trafford. The result sees United close back to four points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, although boss Sir Alex Ferguson must still have concerns about his side on the defensive end.
On a ground where they had never registered even a point in the Premier League, Stoke took a shock early lead through a Wayne Rooney own goal. United then looked to have the match in control as Rooney, at the right end, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck all found the net. But Michael Kightly briefly brought the nerves back for the home side, before Rooney’s second of the match made the three points safe.
Looking to build momentum after a less than consistent start to the season, United made the worst possible start by falling behind in the 11th minute. Charlie Adam whipped in a dangerous free-kick right into the middle of the six yard box and, with no-one taking charge, Rooney headed the ball down and into his own net under pressure from Ryan Shawcross.
While United spurned a good chance to equalize through Welbeck, they were also grateful too for some fine saves from David De Gea. The Spaniard made a good parry from a Jonathan Walters shot before clawing the ball away spectacularly at his near post following Adam’s deflected cross.
But United’s stellar lineup of attacking talent ultimately proved decisive. Van Persie produced a delightful cross from the left right onto the head of Rooney six yards out, who planted the ball into the back of the net to atone for his earlier misjudgment.
And, just before half-time, United scored a crucial second goal. Antonio Valencia, restored to the lineup, produced a cross of typical accuracy, as he drilled the ball toward Van Persie at the near post and the Dutchman adjusted his body well to divert the ball past Asmir Begovic.
There was little respite for Stoke, as United scored a third inside the first minute of the second-half. Rooney provided the cross this time and Welbeck stooped to head past Begovic from six yards.
But just as United were beginning to look comfortable, the weaknesses through the heart of their midfield and defense that have hindered them so often this season were again exploited. Kightly picked the ball up just past half-way and was allowed to burst all the way into the box, beating poor attempted challenges form both Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand as he did so, before firing a good shot across De Gea and in off the upright.
United would not be denied, though, and finally put a pay to Stoke’s resilience in the 65th minute. Yet another cross into the box, this time from a Van Persie corner, was dealt with poorly by Stoke’s defense and the ball finally fell to Rooney at the back post with the simplest of tasks to slide home from just a few yards out.