A wise, unknown man once said,“Football is a game of inches.” Whoever he is,his words could not have proved more true as in the dying seconds of last night’s victory Ashley Young managed to somehow clear Diouf’s shot off the line. Indeed,the Premier League goal-line technology revealed that only a small portion of the ball was not across the line. Louis van Gaal may not have been pleased with the performance but did admit his side were starting to write their own luck saying,“Maybe we forced the luck more and that is coming also because of the fighting spirit.”
The match,or most of it,was characterised by United dominating possession and Stoke looking to break on the counter. Maroune Fellaini’s resurgence continued as he powered home a header from a lovely Ander Herrera cross. Herrera should have had a goal to add to his assist but skied an effort high over the bar following good work from Robin van Persie. Stoke didn’t look out of the game though an after Erik Pieters had given United a warning sign with a terrific cross from the left Steven N’zonzi put the Potters ahead with a thunderous strike into the far corner. David De Gea’s forced poor clearance led to Fellaini losing the ball to Bojan in controversial fashion,the Belgian clutching his neck after seemingly no contact was made. Bojan ran at the defence and an unlucky ricochet of Chris Smalling fell straight to N’zonzi.
Fellaini had another chance just before half-time but a smart save from Begovic kept the scores level.
After the break United had more urgency about them albeit with no penetration. After Valencia won a free-kick on the right hand flank Juan Mata put in a delicious ball that evaded all in the box including Marcos Rojo who attempted to claim his first United goal. The reds should’ve wrapped up the match after that but Fellaini and young James Wilson missed good chances,the latter after a brilliant run at the heart of the stoke defence. Radamel Falcao came on for the last 15 minutes but was ineffective as Stoke looked for an equaliser.
David De Gea was called upon to make a stunning reaction save from a close range Diouf header but the action was far from done. Soon after a scramble in the box saw the ball kindly for Marko Arnautovic and once again De Gea stood firm. He was however helpless to see the ball drift across to feet of Diouf who looked certain to score but Ashley Young(who had a superb game) was on the line to ensure United stay in fourth place.
It was a vital win in the quest for European football and while some may be concerned at United’s inability to see off games,it is encouraging to see results being dug out by the men in red despite missing several key players.
Onwards and upwards…