Date:Saturday November 15 2008
Well that's what I call backlash. United obviously felt that they had some debt to pay off after the defeat at Arsenal and responded by battering Stoke City at Old Trafford.
The news that Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand were both unavailable was not welcome, especially considering that three viciously difficult away games are coming up. But United were expected to cope without them against Stoke.
And it started off brilliantly as Ronaldo's dipping and swerving free-kick totally deceived Sorensen who could not palm it over. We got the early goal we needed and looked set to demolish Stoke but it wasn't to be as the visitors did not give up their obvious gameplan: they totally packed the penalty box and simply closed down all space.
United dominated but John O'Shea almost headed an own goal after a Delap throw-in - the last really dangerous of these - but the ball rebounded off the crossbar. But Stoke did not really threaten and we should have added to our lead but Park fired over the bar after Carrick played him in.
However, United sealed the victory in the first half when Ronaldo set up Carrick who, after two deft touches, unleashed a ferocious left-footed shot from just inside the penalty area which found the back of the net.
It liberated the troops and we were rampant in the second half. An early goal totally broke Stoke: the otherwise quite poor Tevez, set up by a magnificent pass by Fletcher, crossed the ball inside the area to Berbatov who turned and fired it in at the near post.
Game over really and soon after Fergie brought off Fletcher, who was struggling with a knee injury and Park who was good but not excellent and brought on Darron Gibson and Danny Welbeck.
Young Danny, of course, excelled in the Carling Cup in midweek, having won the penalty which decided the game in our favour. This time he got one better to realise his ultimate dream. His league debut couldn't have gone better: with less than 10 minutes to go, he picked up the ball in Stoke's half, carried it forward then unleashed an unstoppable effort that whistled into the top corner from 30 yards.
Brilliant goal, in front of the Stretford End, on his league debut: stuff of dreams. By this time Manucho was also on the field, replacing Tevez and to my mind he was a disappointment: he looked slow, off the pace and sluggish. I do not say that he's now officially useless but he lacks match sharpness.
It didn't really matter as at this stage United carved open Stoke with ease at every attack. Berbatov could have doubled his tally but for a heroic goalline-clearance from Danny Higginbotham, Manucho headed wide after Ronaldo bamboozled Stoke's defence for the umpteenth time but it was the winger himself who applied the final touch: he converted a free-kick with ease after Carrick was brought down at the edge of the area.
When the final whistle went, I thought that I haven't felt so elated at the end of a United game for a long, long time. News filtering through about Arsenal's defeat also helped and of course the team's performance was also quite impressive but the biggest cause for joy and celebration must be Welbeck's display.
Here he is, an 18-year-old guy, born in Longsight, who is showing enough talent to have a bright future at Manchester United. It's been a long, long time that a home-grown striker made it to the first team and became a regular there but Danny has the talent to do so. Hopefully, this goal will set him on the right track.
Date:Saturday November 15 2008
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