Stoke City vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

Stoke City vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned

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    The heavens opened, and the clouds burst.

    On Wednesday night, the gods did their best to stop Manchester United's procession into the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup against Sunderland and possibly setting up a mouthwatering Manchester derby in the final at Wembley. 

    In a 2-0 victory that was halted briefly in the first half due to a hailstorm, United's rotated team handled any threat Stoke could muster and progressed in a comfortable fashion. 

    On a successful and interesting night for the Red Devils, here are six things that we learned from the match.

Anderson Is of No Use to David Moyes

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    It is amazing to think he was once one of South America's hottest young prospects.

    Tonight we saw the Anderson who resides in his leafy Cheshire residence, counting his collection of Ferrari supercars and remembering when he used to be a footballer with potent potential.

    It is right and proper that David Moyes should give the full squad the opportunity to impress, but Anderson's decline began a long time before the managerial exit of Sir Alex Ferguson.

    On Wednesday night, the former Brazilian international offered very little.

    In his previous four matches this season, the player had only won 42 percent of his duels and created just four opportunities for others, per, showing he is neither overtly defensive nor offensive as a professional in 2013.

    Surely his career at Manchester United is now over? 

Ashley Young Needed That Goal

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    The outpouring of emotion was clear to see. It might have only been a League Cup tie on a wet night in Staffordshire, but the reaction after his powerful opening goal on Wednesday night showed just what it meant to Ashley Young.

    Young showed glimpses of form, especially after his goal, and gave David Moyes something positive to think about.

    The England international took his opportunity wonderfully from outside the box and earned himself a yellow card after a dramatic celebration, as he jumped the advertising hoardings to revel with the United away supporters. 

    United need Young to improve so he can take some of the weight off the shoulders of Adnan Januzaj, and in this game he proved he has his uses. 

    This goal could be the start of something good for the winger.     

Phil Jones Has to Carry on in Midfield

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    The continued absence of Michael Carrick will soon be a thing of the past, as the Manchester United midfielder returns after his recent injury.

    However, in his absence the mighty Phil Jones has done a solid job.

    Jones restricted Stoke any room through the middle, protecting his centre-backs and allowing his fellow midfielders to play with more freedom.

    There is little doubt that Jones wants to be a centre-back but in this time of transition for United, it is essential that he plays in a more advanced position, where his natural strength and courage can be fully utilized.

    If we can assume that Marouane Fellaini will take time to settle at his new club, then Jones' value to Moyes will be incalculable.  


Valencia Has Refound His Mojo

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    The No. 7 shirt must have weighed heavily on the shoulders of Antonio Valencia.

    Since he has relinquished that sacred number, he has looked like a man freed from his own personal torment.

    Valencia continued his improving form on Wednesday night, not allowing the torrential rain to affect his power game and driving the team forward from the right wing. 

    There are still question marks over Valencia's final ball and delivery, but the fact that he is continually pushing his marker back into the opposition half of the pitch is hugely positive.

    Also, with this improvement, Valencia is allowing Rafael to play the way he wants to, giving him room to run into and overlap.

    Moyes seems set to continue with tactics that support traditional Man Utd wing-play, and this will guarantee Valencia the game time he needs to continue his progress and earn a new contract with the champions. 

Lindegaard Has No Future at United

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    A Capital One Cup game is the perfect time to rotate out your senior professionals.

    Even Wayne Rooney was given the night off, but David de Gea was not.

    It was only a year or so ago that the press was saying that Anders Lindegaard was a viable alternative to the young Spanish shot-stopper.  

    It appears that ship has sailed.

    At 29 years old, you would think that the Danish international would be looking for substantial game time, but if Moyes does not trust him for a cold night in Stoke-on-Trent, then it is more than likely that he will find his way quickly toward the exit at Old Trafford.

This Competition Now Means Something to Man Utd

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    The celebrations of the goals by both players and fans said it all.

    The League Cup, once a tournament at the bottom of the Man Utd priority list, suddenly means a whole lot more.

    All teams in transition need a starting point, and the Capital One Cup may well be David Moyes' headache cure in these stressful early days. 

    As the Premier League looks like an impossible dream and the Champions League is dominated by the best German team of a generation, United could find their route to silverware through the domestic English cup competitions.

    United fans would once snobbishly turn their regal noses up at the League Cup, but this season it may offer this current football team's best opportunity to celebrate a success. 

    A Manchester final at Wembley—and a subsequent victory—would end up giving David Moyes the keys to the hearts of United fans across the country and kick-start a brave new era.