Not as fluid but a win nevertheless. Tonight was never going to be a repeat of the performance against Hull at the weekend as Stoke were always going to be a tougher opponent.
That’s four wins on the trot now and Louis van Gaal will be delighted to be in the middle of a great winning streak going into big games against Southampton and Liverpool.
Marouane Fellaini‘s renaissance continues. Fellaini’s goal tonight was his first in a competitive match at Old Trafford and he really has transformed from a cartoon villain under David Moyes into a genuine first team regular under Louis van Gaal.
He wasn’t as sharp as he has been in recent performances but Fellaini was still hungry to get involved which is a far cry from the pedestrian player who barely got past a fast walk last season.
Passing wise, there were some good and bad parts in equal measure but overall, Fellaini was impressive.
Wayne Rooney was sorely missed. Juan Mata and Ander Herrera played but there was a distinct lack of link-up play between the midfield and attack in comparison to the 3-0 win over Hull at the weekend. The difference was the missing Rooney.
Hopefully Rooney was simply rested tonight in order to make sure he was fit for the big upcoming games against Southampton and Liverpool but even if he is fit, missing a match won’t do his fitness or form any favours.
Defensively strong. Both Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo had excellent games at centre-back tonight. Since returning from their respective suspension and injury, they have showed the makings of what could be an excellent partnership at the back for United.
Playing the same centre-back pairing is almost an unprecedented situation for United and it’s refreshing to see the duo continue from their good performance against Hull.
Going into the big games against Southampton and Liverpool, United may have some sort of defensive stability which is unheralded given what has happened this season.
James Wilson is going to be great. There’s no two ways about it, Wilson is going to be a fantastic player for United in the eventuality of time. It’s a case of when and not if.
In the first 70 minutes, Wilson was quiet but against the tired legs of Stoke’s defenders later on in the game, he came to life. Wilson’s pace is frightening and although his finishing and decision making were off, he did OK on his Premier League debut under Louis van Gaal which earned him a rapturous applause when taken off for Radamel Falcao.