STOKE CITY 2, MAN UNITED 1
Manchester United’s hopes of a top-four finish receded even further following their eighth Barclays Premier League defeat of the season at Stoke City.
Two goals from Charlie Adam inflicted further misery on the Reds as Stoke registered a first league win against them in almost 30 years.
And despite laying siege to the Potters’ goal in the dying stages, United were unable to salvage anything as Stoke celebrated a much-needed victory after five losses in their last six league games.
United had little to cheer apart from a goal from Robin van Persie which had temporarily wiped out Stoke’s opening goal as they briefly threatened a comeback.
While disappointed with the defeat, David Moyes was satisfied with his side’s overall display at the Britannia Stadium.
He said: “I thought our performance was very good and we played well. We made numerous opportunities and were unlucky with the first goal, a 30-yard free kick which took a massive deflection, and the second which was a worldy.
“I thought we were the better team and we had done enough to take something from the game.
“There were not a lot of things we didn’t do well and can have no complaints other than we didn’t finish them off.”
It was a battling display from Stoke who kicked off the game third bottom. The victory catapulted them into 11th place such is the congested and crazy nature of the league.
The victory was also one to cherish for Mark Hughes against his former club.
Stoke’s manager said: “It was a huge result and the first time we have beaten United in the Premier League. It was possibly unexpected outside Stoke, but it is one we have to build on.
“We had a bit of luck for the opening goal, but I would say we have not had too much fortune in recent weeks.
“The goal which won it was an outstanding strike from Charlie. It was a great goal to win a great game for us.”
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick returned to United’s starting line up as Moyes made three changes to the starting line up from the midweek match against Cardiff City.
There was also a recall for Tom Cleverley while Rafael da Silva, Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia were the players to make way.
It was the first time new club-record signing Juan Mata had teamed up with van Persie and Rooney in what ought to be a mouth-watering attacking front three.
The swirling wind ruined the game as a spectacle as it was bitty and disjointed and United suffered a torrid opening period.
They lost Jonny Evans and Phil Jones, both through injury, as Carrick was forced to switch to become a stand in centre back.
The goal, which gave Stoke a 38th minute lead, also mirrored the pattern of the game as Adam’s 35-yard free kick took a massive deflection off Carrick to completely wrong foot keeper David de Gea.
United were only able to muster a couple of half chances as a near-post shot from Rooney flashed wide and a header from van Persie was deflected for a corner.
But it improved soon after the restart when van Persie equalised. Mata seized on a poor headed clearance to set up the Dutchman who lofted his shot over keeper Asmir Begovic for his 12th goal of the campaign and second in two games since returning from his lengthy injury lay off.
United’s joy was short lived as Stoke regained the lead in the 52nd minute as Adam struck again with as his 25-yard drive arrowed into the top corner of the net.
Stoke almost added a third goal as Marko Arnautovic shot just wide as he almost punished Chris Smalling for an awful defensive clearance.
And they had another great chance when substitute Oussame Assaidi’s shot was superbly tipped over by de Gea.
United pressed forward in the closing stages, which included seven minutes of stoppage time, in pursuit of an equaliser.
Ashley Young had a free far-post header, but saw his effort fly disappointingly wide.
Rooney’s free kick was then superbly deflected on to the upright by the fingertips of Begovic. In the ensuing scramble, substitute Danny Welbeck and Patrice Evra failed to connect before Cleverley blazed over.
And with that miss, United’s last chance of salvaging something from the game disappeared in yet another disappointing afternoon.