United for the first time in 2014 have managed to win four straight premier league matches as they beat Stoke City 2-1 to retain there position in the top four. Goals from Fellaini and Mata canceled out the equaliser from Nzonzi to secure all three points. However, United needed their Spanish goalkeeper to save them on more then one occasion to hang for the victory. Let us see how the players have performed.
David Degea: 9/10
It is hard to imagine where United would have been if not for their Spanish goal keeper’s heroics this season. If not for him, United would have squandered all the good work they did in the 90 minutes against Stoke. Degea produced excellent saves towards the end to deny Stoke the late equaliser. There is nothing much he could have done for Nzonzi’s equaliser in the first half. Otherwise, Degea was ever present to help his team come out of trouble as he was called on more then one occasion to react to unconvincing back passes from their teammates.
Antonio Valencia: 6/10
Valencia has slowly started to grow in the right back position. However, Valencia was caught out of position quite often as Stoke enjoyed their best spells on United’s right hand side. He may be more suited for the wing-back position then the fullback. Nonetheless, the player provides great support for his teammates when in possession.
Chris Smalling: 8/10
Smalling’s response to the red card he collected in the Manchester derby would have pleased the manager. He was an assured presence in the back and organised the makeshift defence well at times. It is unclear though whether he will hold on to his position when both Evans and Jones returns.
Marcos Rojo: 7/10
The Argentinian is finally starting to settle in United’s defence after less then convincing early start to his United carrier. He partnered Smalling well and his no nonsense approach got United out of trouble in more than one occasion. His athletic abilities is an added advantage. It is still not clear whether Rojo will continue as a centre half if all the injured players return.
Ashley Young: 8/10
Like Valencia, he is another make shift full back in United defnec. To Ashley Young’s credit, he did a good job despite being a right footer and playing in the left back position. He supported his attacker well and got passed the opposition defenders often to remain a constant threat on the left flank. His goal line clearance of Diouf in the injury time saved all three points for the Reds.
Michael Carrick: 8/10
Carrick as usual was a calming influence in the middle of the park. He sat in front of his defence and protected the make shift defenders reasonably well. His distribution was also neat and tidy as he regularly found Herrera and Mata to run at Stoke defenders. It is no coincidence that United improved a lot after Carrick’s return from injury. He has to stay fit to help the team reach the top four.
Maroune Fellaini: 8/10
Just few months back, Fellaini was hardly getting any playing time and now he is an irreplaceable member in the team sheet. The Belgian has carried on his recent impressive performances in this match and was always there to win the ball back or intercept any loose passes. His trademark header opened the score on the night and reminded everyone about the old Fellaini during his great days at Everton.
Ander Herrera: 7/10
After missing a sitter in the opening few minutes, Herrera made up for it with an inch perfect cross with his wrong foot to set up Fellaini for the teams opener. His distribution was not at his usual best as he gave away few misplaced passes. However, he combined well with Mata and Fellaini to keep the pressure on Stoke.
Juan Mata: 8/10
He is another player, who has stepped up his performance in the recent matches to cement a place in the team sheet lately. He calmly got the ball moving forward and linked well with the attackers. It was his brilliantly taken free kick which deceived the Stoke goal keeper Begovic to get the teams second goal of the night, which eventually turned out to be the winner. It is unclear whether he will hang on to the position, when the injured players like Di Maria and Rooney return.
James Wilson: 7/10
Against Stoke, James Wilson showed everyone why United’s academy is one of the best in terms of producing talented young players. At 19 years, he was a constant threat up front with his pace. He played behind Van Persie and was neat with his passing. His impressive run from the half way line at the 70 minute mark only missed a finishing touch as he squandered the ball just wide of the goal. However, those moments are enough to show what the future holds for the player.
Robin Van Persie: 6/10
Van Persie may be the only United player to miss out on the chance to take advantage of this make shift attacking line up. Despite his early interception from Begovic to tee up Herrera, the Dutch man was hardly present in the match. When Rooney returns and Falcao finds his goal scoring form, it is hard to image where Van Persie will be?
Radamel Falcao (On 78) : 5/10
He came after 70 minutes to replace Wilson. By then United were ready to retreat back to protect the one goal advantage rather then score another. So Falcao was unable to do much and hardly touched the ball to make a real impact.
Darren Fletcher (On 86) : N/A
Hardly had any time to make an impact
Adnan Januzaj (On 90) : N/A
Hardly had any time to make an impact
Asmir Begovic: 7/10
After the early blunder nearly gifted United a goal, when his distribution was intercepted by Van Persie, Begovic slowly started to command his area. He came and collected the crosses well and organised his defenders well. Notably, his first half save from Fellaini on the line was the highlight of his night.
Phil Bardsley: 5/10
He was one of the three ex-United players on the Stoke starting line up. But, he failed to make an impression and was booked early in the game for a foul on Wilson. He was constantly forced to sit back to prevent the on rushing Ashley Young and the United fullback enjoyed great space on the left flank. The cross for the first goal also came from his flank.
Ryan Shawcross: 6/10
Another United old boy who did well to keep Van Persie in his pockets for most of the match. He was standing tall in defence as he intercepted and cleared the ball well. Recently gossips linked him for a return to United. Only time will tell whether he will come back to Old Trafford.
James Wilson: 6/10
He defended well and limited United from creating many opportunities. He formed a decent partnership with Shawcross in the absence of Huth to keep the United attackers at bay for most of the match.
Erik Pieters: 5/10
He was a total mismatch for Fellaini’s opener. Not that he could have jumped to the same extent to deny Fellaini from scoring but, he lost the battle without a proper challenge as he was unaware of Fellaini’s position. He didn’t offer much on the attack either, as United enjoyed majority of the possession.
Geof Cameron: 5/10
His duty was to protect the defensive back four but was unable to keep his pace with some of Uniteds quick players. Despite it, he worked hard to limit the number of United openings.
Steven Nzonzi: 7/10
He scored from nowhere with a thunderbolt of a strike to equalise for Stoke in the first half. He was otherwise neat and tidy and worked hard for his team on and off the ball.
Stephen Ireland: 5/10
The former Manchester City man was booed every time he touched the ball and was not at his usual self on the night. He was unable to keep up with the pace of the game and got booked for a cynical challenge to deny Wilson to run at United’s goal in the second half.
Bojan Krkic: 7/10
The ex-Barcelona player worked really hard and was the teams best attacking option. He was constantly trying to do something happen, however his teammates was not on the same line as him. It was from his great run, Nzonzi scored the equaliser in the first half.
Oussama Assaidi: 5/10
The Liverpool player who is on loan at Stoke failed to make any real impact in the match. He saw plenty of the ball in the first half but, failed to make much with it and faded away in the second half. Rightly so he was replaced for Crocuh on 77 minutes.
Mame Birame Diouf: 6/10
Only he knows how he came from Old Trafford without a goal to his name. He got two glorious chances in the end – one was superbly saved by Degea and another was cleared off the line by Young. Nonetheless, he kept on going for his team till the end.
Crouch (On 77): 5/10
He replaced Assaidi with little time to left and was ineffectual like his replacement. The ex-Liverpool player was booed by the fans when he entered the pitch and the Old Trafford fans would have been pleased with his limited involvement.
Arnautovic ( On 82): 5/10
Despite coming late on, he had a great chance to snatch a late equaliser but, Degea did brilliantly well to deny him with a goal.
Image courtesy of Dailymail.