EPL: Shambolic defence

Man United 3
(Robin van Persie 43, Wayne Rooney 78, Javier Hernandez 80)

Stoke 2
(Peter Crouch 4, Marko Arnautovic 45)

Christmas came early.

Manchester United's backline were in the mood to play Santa, and they might as well be dressed up for the occasion to convince a home crowd who could hardly believe their eyes.

Twice, they allowed Stoke to take the lead on Saturday.

Then they left it late to rescue the result by the skin of their teeth, eventually coming away 3-2 winners at Old Trafford.

Just another day at the office for David Moyes.

He has been living on the edge since taking over the United baton. More performances such as this by his team will neither do his United future nor his health any good.

The three points against the Potters, managed by their old boy Mark Hughes, will do little to restore their confidence.

The awful performance, especially at the back, merely adds to a belief that there is a long, arduous season ahead of them.

It is clear that Moyes needs to do something fast to turn things around.

Few, however, can see where the inspiration is going to come from.

Shambolic would be too mild a word to describe United's rearguard action.


With Patrice Evra and Chris Smalling taking the flanks, Jonathan Evans and Phil Jones in the centre, a very limited Stoke who have just scored four goals in eight games prior to this outing were not expected to cause too many problems.

Somehow, they did.

Their opening goal was unbelievable on several fronts, from the brilliant save by David de Gea to keep out Peter Crouch's shot from point-blank range, to Evans' subsequent clearance which instead hit Crouch and went into the net.

The ease with which Erik Pieters beat so many United players down the flank before sending in his cross that led to the goal was tough to comprehend.

Who else but Robin van Persie to come to their rescue by levelling the score, but the parity didn't last long.

Only two minutes, to be exact.

The defending by Phil Jones, who needlessly gave away the free-kick that resulted in Marko Arnautovic's set-piece goal just before half-time, was deplorable.

Just how United allowed a limited Stoke side to fashion so many goalscoring chances in the first period will be hard to stomach for Moyes.

There was a clear lack of cohesion, and most crucially, confidence.

The absence of experienced defenders Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, who were close to full fitness but failed to make the team yesterday, can't be an excuse, as both had been off-colour in any case prior to their injuries.

In the end, the United assault team delivered.

Wayne Rooney sent a 78th-minute looping header into the far corner to equalise. Two minutes later, an unmarked Javier Hernandez nodded in the winning goal.

They saved the day.

But by no means have United turned the corner. Not even close.

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