Manchester United, after a splendid display of football in the first half, only to miss the simplest of their chances, have drawn the game 1-1 against a poor Stoke City side. To be fair, United did not deserve to lose the game on one hand, but on the other, they did not make things easy for themselves. Missing out on golden chances, which could have seen United up 2-0 inside first twenty minutes, meant Stoke had some self-belief while going in at half time. Which was evidently showing in the first twenty minutes of the second half? It was on the introduction of fresh legs, that United found their momentum back and scored almost immediately through Anthony Martial, only to give away an untidy goal in the 82nd minute at the other end.
A lot of supporters might feel disgruntled and frustrated and rightly so, as the game was there for taking, not on one but multiple occasions. United failed to do so but it just felt like that kind of day. Stoke’s goalkeeper had an excellent game, quite the opposite of David De Gea who would be ruing his poor effort at stopping a pretty straight forward shot. With as many as eight shots stopped, Lee Grant kept Stoke in the game for the whole 90 minutes. United’s shots however either kept getting blocked, stopped or hit the goal post. Pogba himself could have had a hat-trick but as it turns out had nothing to show against his name and just a point for his team. However, in spite of the frustration, United manager, Jose Mourinho focussed on the positives of the game and he too felt that the result doesn’t justify his team’s performance.
“Best United performance all season. It could have been 3-0 or 4-0 at half-time, 6-0 at the end of the game, but the result was 1-1. But that’s football.”
Last weekend, the Old Trafford supporters were on their feet as their team put Leicester down with 45 minutes to go. The same team, could not do that to this Stoke side. But in spite of that, the manager felt it was a much better performance than last weekend.
“It was a much better performance than against Leicester. It was the best performance by far, six, seven, eight great chances to win the game. This United team is one that wants to score more goals and be completely in control. “
Appreciating his opponent and their keeper especially, Mourinho went on to rue his bad luck but did not blame Stoke for that.
“In the first minute their goalkeeper made an unbelievable save and he kept doing that until the end of the game. He started with an amazing save to Zlatan and ended with an amazing save from Zlatan. You can say what you want, but that’s my opinion.
“For me, a great performance. With a bad result, the reaction of the fans at the end of the game says absolutely everything. Stoke fought like they do every game. They came for a draw. They were lucky but luck is part of football and my tribute to them is that they’re not guilty of our bad luck.”
The manager wanted to finish the game off, with a second goal, but a brief counter-attack, followed by a rare mistake of a poor clearance by Daley Blind, resulted in the throw in which got Stoke the one point.
“We chased the second goal and they go at the other end and score the goal and get a point. You can have sometimes have draws where what you does nothing to change the result.”
As it felt, it was a day of “would have been” and nothing that United did could get them those three points.
“The players and I did everything. I made changes, everyone was giving more and more but today we could be here all day without winning the game. We will play worse and win games for sure.”
United’s midfield hero, Ander Herrera too was shell-shocked at the result and could not believe that United did not win.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 2, 2016
Nothing and absolutely nothing came off for them and Mourinho too was left ruing the missed chances.
“In the first half, minute one, an amazing chance with amazing football, then a few minutes later another one with Paul Pogba facing the keeper. We had three or four in the first half, we had three or four in the second half. We hit the bar. We did everything. We played good football. We touched the ball, we moved, we created so much. It was a really good performance, a performance to win by a comfortable score and, in the end, we lose two points.”
The worse part of this result is the wait. Players will now travel for their international duties and the fans won’t see them play for the next 15 days, after which they will be traveling to Anfield. It is much difficult to mull over a loss when there is no other game to focus on. But it is not just the fans with this emotion, but the manager too.
“It’s frustrating because the result is not good, it’s frustrating because we don’t have a game in three or four days to play again, it’s frustrating because we don’t have the players to work with, but that’s football and I think everybody is frustrated but we have to be happy with the quality of our performance. I think the fans are disappointed with the result but the reaction also shows that it was an afternoon where they know we did everything.”
United now has a very tough month ahead of them and the next three to four weeks will decide if United moves closer to the top or gets left far behind, effectively ending their title aspirations. There are signs to be hopeful and positive and with more accuracy and lethal finishing, United would be in a good position by the end of this season. But that’s too far to think about right now, the only thing to focus on at this moment is the Liverpool game and getting closer to the top.