Today it was the giants of the Premiership. Not in a figurative performance sense, but in a literal, oh my god they are fricking massive, sense. Stoke have forged something of a winning strategy by being bigger and stronger than any other team in the Premiership and with the arrival of Peter Crouch in the summer have raised the average height of the squad from 6ft 6″ to a lofty 6ft 11″. In a word, Stoke City are HUGE!
And that’s why so many teams struggle against them, which is what happened with Man Utd today. Stoke used Crouch as the point man to great effect. The football isn’t pretty, it isn’t technical but damn it caused problems for Uniteds back line. At every opportunity the Stoke keeper or defenders would literally hoof the ball in to the United box and hope that Crouch could get on the end of it, which since he’s a full head taller than even Ferdinand or Jones, happened quite often.
What’s more, Stoke closed down United so quickly, it was like the charge of the light brigade every time a United player touched the ball, Stoke’s giants would rush on in. In the past this kind of pressing play worked great for the first 80 minutes and then everyone dies and United said thank you very much, Goal. Now though, I’ve noticed that teams that have to press United can do so for the full 90 minutes.
There was less of the tiki taka football on show today, Anderson continued with his loose balls and as I’ve mentioned before De Gea still really needs to work on his distribution, especially when you are playing against a team the size of Stoke – I don’t think any of his hoofs was caught by a United player. That said, he pulled off some exceptional saves and he’s looking a bit more comfortable than a few weeks ago and looks like the quality United need at the back.
Nani was once again the best player for United, the last season or so he’s finally beginning to fill the boots to match his ego. Always written off as a poor man’s Ronaldo, he’s more like a middle class man’s Ronaldo now. Rather surprisingly was that Owen managed to last the full 90 minutes, but his contribution, yet again, didn’t do justice to his ability. A good run to draw off defenders to help Nani’s goal, but apart from that when he did get the ball there didn’t seem to be any killer strike, there was too much hesitation and on more than one occasion there was too many touches. Maybe with more games he could get back to his goal scoring ways and with the injury to Rooney and Hernandez (how many injuries do United get in a season!) maybe he’ll get his chance.
Two points dropped here, but Stoke were a very tough side to deal with.