Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City: Premier League – as it happened

Simon Burnton on 15 January 2018

And here’s your match report. Bye!

So United trim the gap at the top of the table to just the 12 points. Over the next month Stoke play Huddersfield (h), Watford (h), Bournemouth (a) and Brighton (h), four theoretically winnable games that will define the remainder of their season in a way this one never would.

Final score: Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City

90+3 mins: Pogba ends an excellent performance by curling high and wide from the free kick, and that’s it!

90+2 mins: McTominay is fouled by Martins Indi just outside the area, and United will have one more shot before the final whistle.

90+1 mins: There will be about two minutes of further torture for Stoke.

Stoke City Caretaker Manager Eddie Niedzwiecki

Stoke City Caretaker Manager Eddie Niedzwiecki
Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

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90 mins: United have a corner and don’t take it short. Instead, Rashford crosses to the defender at the near post. Still, Stoke clear straight back to a red shirt, Rashford is picked out again, and he dances into the box and sends a low shot straight at Butland.

87 mins: Er, five of United’s last six league games before tonight (but before that, not in the Premier League this season and only once last season, but a few times in the Champions League and assorted cups).

86 mins: An amazing chance for Stoke! The ball’s lifted into the area, Smalling totally misjudges it and Diouf’s chest control opens up half an area’s worth of space. He blasts in a shot that De Gea saves, and then slams the rebound wide with Ireland unmarked at the far post!

84 mins: Another excellent Pogba pass finds Valencia, whose low cross is backheel-flicked goalwards by Rashford. Butland saves.

83 mins: That will be Mata’s final contribution to the evening’s entertainment, with Scott McTominay replacing him.

81 mins: His team are 3-0 up with the game in their pocket, but when Mata is found on the right in an excellent crossing position and succeeds only in picking out a defender, he screams at himself in rage, frustration and wild self-loathing.

80 mins: United make their first substitutions, bringing off Lingard and Martial and bringing on Fellaini and Rashford.

79 mins: Pogba crosses from the right, and Mata magics an over-the-shoulder flick that takes it towards Lukaku. It hits the post, but the flag is up.

76 mins: United hog the ball for a couple of minutes, and then Martial inexplicably gives it away under no pressure. This has become humiliatingly uncompetitive, the very opposite of yesterday’s derring-do at Anfield.

75 mins: It’s raining so hard you can hardly hear the commentators.

74 mins: This half has been kind of like the first, except without Stoke having any chances or doing at all well at anything.

GOAL! Manchester United 3-0 Stoke (Lukaku, 72 mins)

Finally United stick a chance away! Lingard runs 60 yards and passes to Martial, who pings it at pace into Lukaku’s chest inside the area. It drops at his feet, and he shifts it onto his left foot and slams it inside the near post!

Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their third goal
Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their third goal Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

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70 mins: A final Stoke change: Peter Crouch is off, and Mame Biram Diouf is on.

69 mins: And a few minutes ago I completely failed to mention United having a goal disallowed: Lukaku’s low shot was well saved, and Lingard’s follow-up was flicked in by Mata, two yards out and five yards offside.

68 mins: And another booking, this time for Ireland, for cynically clipping Mata’s ankles.

67 mins: Jones brings the ball out from defence, shimmies past a few Stoke midfielders in unlikely style and passes to Lukaku, who goes down under a fairly humdrum challenge from Martins Indi, bounces up and squares up to the Stoke defender aggressively. Lukaku is booked.

65 mins: And again! Shaw goes down the left, and then goes further down the left, and his low cross was going to be pretty rubbish but it flicks off Zouma’s calf and spins to Lingard, who touches to Mata, who blasts a snap-shot high!

63 mins: Lingard trips Fletcher, and is booked.

62 mins: And the home side come close again! Lingard forces Zouma into losing the ball – not the first time the defender has lumbered upfield only to give possession away – Lukaku takes it and passes infield to Lingard, who goes right to Mata, whose shot flies back across goal and just wide of the far post.

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60 mins: Stoke take off Choupo-Moting, and bring on Ramadan Sobhi.

59 mins: Not sure how United failed to score here. Pogba crosses low from the left; Martial controls it, somehow bounces between Wimmer and Martins Indi, and then sidefoots a low shot from eight yards that goes straight to Butland.

58 mins: Ireland tackles Martial in the area but the ball breaks to Mata, whose cross is overhit but the ball breaks to Pogba, whose shot hits a defender but goes behind for a corner. It’s played short, and nothing comes of it. I don’t know what’s up with United and these short corners.

55 mins: “Paul Lambert’s barmy army!” sing the away fans.

Stoke City’s Moritz Bauer
Stoke City’s Moritz Bauer Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

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55 mins: He then span and blasted a decent left-footed shot at goal, to be fair. Butland saved.

54 mins: Pogba chips a pass to Lukaku, who controls on his chest and attempts to flick it over his shoulder and back to Pogba, but instead hits himself in the face.

52 mins: Pogba now has nine assists for the season, taking him level with Leroy Sane and Kevin de Bruyne at the top of the assists table. Impressive, particularly given that he’s missed seven league games through injury and three through suspension. This is his 13th league game; De Bruyne has played 23.

49 mins: Pogba plays the ball through to Martial, but Butland races from his line to reach it first. Just.

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48 mins: Shaqiri and Shaw fight for the ball on United’s left flank. United win the throw-in, Shaqiri is shouldered into the advertising hoardings, and he bashes them in rage.

46 mins: They’re back under way, and Stoke have brought Kevin Wimmer on for the second half, taking off Josh Tymon.

Last summer, Antonio Valencia was asked what his aims for the forthcoming season were:

There is always something to improve on and, this season, I will try to be better with my left foot. I will shoot more, try to do more with it and I hope, this year, I can achieve this. Overall, I just wish to be better and, God willing, things will go the right way for me and for the team.

Today we tasted the fruit of his labour. And it tasted good.

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Half time: Manchester United 2-0 Stoke

45+2 mins: And that’s it, for now. It hasn’t been entirely one-sided. Stoke have had a couple of very decent chances. But they didn’t take them, United scored a couple of absolute beauties, and the game seems all wrapped up and ready for them to apply a bow and a little mini gift-card-on-golden-string thing in the second half.

45+2 mins: Shaqiri controls brilliantly, cuts past the onrushing Jones, and sends a stinging low shot towards the corner. De Gea makes a difficult save look easy.

Xherdan Shaqiri of Stoke City
Xherdan Shaqiri of Stoke City Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

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45+1 mins: Into stoppage time, of which there’ll be a minute or so.

45 mins: Martial has another shot from outside the area, but this one goes over. Again this followed work from Lukaku on the right wing, where he’s been hanging out rather a lot.

42 mins: Mata’s fine pass finds Martial, who controls, shimmies, twists and prods a pass to Lukaku, running into the area. Any kind of half-decent control would have left him with a simple finish, but he couldn’t quite bring it under his spell.

40 mins: United have scored two absolute beauties. “Going down!” sing their fans at the visitors.

GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 Stoke (Martial, 38 mins)

Lukaku is on the right again. This time he passes infield to Pogba, who passes further infield to Martial, who curls a brilliant right-foot shot into the top corner from 22 yards!

Anthony Martial the second goal
Anthony Martial the second goal Photograph: John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

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37 mins: Another lovely long pass to a full-back, this time Shaqiri’s to Bauer, but the Stoke man is so far from any of his team-mates that his low cross just looks a little silly. “People here in Ecuador are freaking out that Antonio Valencia scored with his left foot,” reports Matthew Carpenter-Arevalo from Quito. “Have you ever seen him use his left foot? it’s almost as glorious as when the world discovered that Zoolander was indeed an ambi-turner.”

36 mins: Pogba strikes a ludicrous 50-yard pass downfield and into the path of Shaw, who catches it just before it rolls out of play and pulls back to Martial, whose shot deflects wide. United take the corner short, and nothing comes of it. Again.

34 mins: Mata exchanges passes with Valencia, bursts into the penalty area and goes down as Martins Indi approaches, a dive so ridiculous even the perpetrator immediately leaps up to indicate to the referee that there was nothing in it.

Juan Mata goes down in the area after a challenge by Stoke City’s Bruno Martins Indi
Juan Mata goes down in the area after a challenge by Stoke City’s Bruno Martins Indi Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

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31 mins: United win another corner, and play this one short as well. Lingard does eventually cross this time, but Butland catches, fumbles, and catches again.

29 mins: Lukaku is in the penalty area for the corner, but the ball isn’t, as it’s played short and then crossed half-heartedly. Shaw runs onto the clearance and slams in a shot from 35 yards, which Butland gathers.

29 mins: Excellent work from Lukaku on the right, and then a lovely cross at the end of it, but sadly he can’t also be in the middle to win the header. Corner.

26 mins: “That is literally (yes, literally) the first time I have ever seen Valencia ever touch a ball with his left foot,” writes Bryan Tisinger of the goal. “Obviously Stoke didn’t think it was possible. Has anyone else ever seen him touch a ball with his left foot?” Well I’ve been through every photograph we’ve got of him, and I do believe I’ve found one where he’s about to do just that!

Antonio Valencia of Manchester United
Antonio Valencia of Manchester United in action with Aly Cissokho of Aston Villa in April 2016. Photograph: Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images

25 mins: Stoke nearly score again! A long cross from the right is nodded down by Crouch, with De Gea committed but nowhere, and Jones somehow gets in the way of Choupo-Moting’s shot!

21 mins: Ooooh! Ireland, in the centre circle, passes to the right and starts running. It’s moved inside to Shaqiri, who touches to Ireland, now bursting into the penalty area, and he shoots just wide!

Stoke City’s Stephen Ireland shoots wide
Stoke City’s Stephen Ireland shoots wide Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

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20 mins: Mata hits it into the wall.

19 mins: Lingard is tripped by Allen, a couple of yards outside the penalty area, and United have a fine shooting chance.

17 mins: Stoke find space on the right, and Bauer passes to Ireland, who has the freedom of the penalty area. The ball forces him to control with his back to goal, and he spins and fires wide.

15 mins: United are giving Stoke a bit of a pummelling at the moment. Valencia may have kicked the ball more than six times with his left foot in a United shirt, but until tonight he had never scored with it.

13 mins: “Some competition for Barry’s stat gun,” writes Michael Meagher. “That is only the 6th time Antonio Valencia has kicked the ball with his left foot in his entire Manchester United career.” And another stat:

11 mins: Stoke have a shot! Fletcher lifts the ball into the box, where Shaqiri, with Shaw closing him down, scissor-kicks it goalwards. De Gea saves with ease, but it did look very good.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri shoots at goal
Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri shoots at goal Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

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10 mins: Pogba carries the ball infield from the left and then finds Valencia on the other wing, who cuts inside Tymon, gets into the box and sends the ball curling into the far corner with his left foot, as sweet a strike as you’ll ever see!

GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Stoke (Valencia, 9 mins)

What a hit! An absolute peach from the United right-back!

Antonio Valencia celebrates
Antonio Valencia celebrates Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

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7 mins: Mata clips the ball into the area, where Martial has got in front of Bauer. Both players go a-tumbling, and the Stoke debutant had his arms around the Frenchman when they did so. Not exactly an assault, but probably a foul. The referee waves play on.

Anthony Martial goes down in the area after a challenge by Moritz Bauer
Anthony Martial goes down in the area after a challenge by Moritz Bauer Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

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4 mins: Martial gets into space on the left of the penalty area, but his cross hits a defender, pings into another defender, and is cleared.

3 mins: Obviously it was Jack Butland with the towel, and not someone who doesn’t play for either team. Manchester United win a free kick, and then another free kick, and shortly afterwards another free kick, none of them anywhere near Stoke’s area.

toke City’s Jack Butland with a towel
toke City’s Jack Butland with a towel Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

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1 min: It took 35 seconds for United to touch the ball. Then Valencia launches it downfield to nobody, and Stoke have it back again.

1 min: Rumble!

Preliminaries completed. Ready to rumble.

United have turned up, and the players are now on the pitch! To celebrate, here’s a stat:

It is pouring in Manchester. Stoke’s players are in the tunnel, all alone at the moment. Jack Butland is carrying a large towel, and will need it.

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Jose Mourinho speaks! Firstly, about the gap since their last game:

We recovered some injured players. We had the possibility to work really well, which we really cannot do when we play every three days. That compensates the fact we didn’t have competition for quite a while, but I think we needed, to be together, living together for one week, to be together, training. Hopefully we can take advantage in the second part of the season.

Valencia was injured, but other guys, they had lots of minutes in their legs, and after the Christmas period to have this week i think is important for the future. We have Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup to come and the more players we have available the better.

[And finally on Mkhitaryan’s absence] I wouldn’t say it is just a pure tactical decision. It’s just a choice of the players that we know that in this moment they have 100% their heads in Manchester United, and no doubts about the future. I don’t think it’s easy for a player to play when there are doubts about his future. It’s added pressure that a player doesn’t need. I think it’s best for him, the best for us, while the doubt is in the air, to protect him.

Here’s Moritz Bauer on signing for Stoke. And here he is, six days later, making his debut at Old Trafford:

It’s the biggest stage, you play against the biggest teams, the superstars. To compete with these kind of teams you are running out of words to say what it means. Of course one of the dreams is coming true but Stoke is a big club, not like some of the clubs in the Premier League. I’m really happy to be here.

There is no Mkhitaryan in Manchester United’s squad, as Jose Mourinho makes three changes. Stoke may have “tried not to change too much”, but there are still five of them.

Eddie Niedzwiecki speaks:

Paul came in to see the players at 4.45pm tonight, spoke to them briefly and told them he’d see them in the morning. It has been a tough week, but since the first day I’ve prepared myself for this game, try to do it as best as I possibly can, as we always have. I’ve tried not to change too much.

[On team changes] This season we’ve never been able to keep a back three, or four, or five, together for any period of time. Injuries have taken their toll on us and they have again tonight. Moritz Bauer, I thought I had to throw him in. In Bruno’s case, it’s a risk, he hasn’t played since the middle of December, but needs must. I had to make a decision at left-back, so that’s what I’ve done.

New Stoke City manager Paul Lambert in the stands
New Stoke City manager Paul Lambert in the stands Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

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The teams!

The team sheets are in, and here are our entertainers tonight:

Man Utd: de Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Shaw, Pogba, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Lukaku. Subs: Lindelof, Rojo, Rashford, Ander Herrera, Fellaini, McTominay, Joel Pereira.
Stoke: Butland, Bauer, Zouma, Martins Indi, Tymon, Fletcher, Shaqiri, Allen, Ireland, Choupo-Moting, Crouch. Subs: Wimmer, Afellay, Adam, Diouf, Sobhi, Grant, Edwards.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.

Hello world!

There should be no problem with motivation for this one: Manchester City have finally lost a game, so tonight United have the chance to set the title chase alight by reducing the gap at the top of the table to just 12 points! And everyone’s playing for their places, with Alexis Sánchez expected to turn up and steal someone’s spot any day now. Meanwhile Stoke will have new manager Paul “I am Bert” Lambert sitting in the stands watching his new side as Eddie Niedzwiecki and Kevin Russell take charge of the team, the players knowing that he has already delivered to a wowed boardroom what Peter Coates called “a clear plan of how he would improve our results”, wondering if they were included in his virtuoso PowerPointsmanship and hoping to crowbar themselves into his thinking if it didn’t. Plus they’re playing at Old Trafford, so there’s also that. And they’re not being managed by Mark Hughes any more, a fact that has certainly lifted my spirits as a neutral who is occasionally professionally obliged to watch Stoke, and must surely have an even greater impact on those who are permanently professionally obliged to play for them.

They’ve already drawn 2-2 this season, and 1-1 twice last season. I’m told that the last time Manchester United drew four consecutive league games against the same opponent was with Leeds United in the 1980s, and the last time Stoke drew four consecutive league games against the same opponent hasn’t been revealed, because they do it too often, never do it at all, or don’t have enough fans to make the effort worthwhile.

Simon will be here shortly. In the meantime you can catch up with the latest on Alexis Sánchez’s potential move to Manchester United …

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