Stoke vs. Manchester United: Winners and Losers from Premier League

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 26, 2015

Stoke vs. Manchester United: Winners and Losers from Premier League

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    The pressure on Louis van Gaal increased tenfold on Saturday after Manchester United lost 2-0 to an excellent Stoke City side. It was the club’s fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions.

    Bojan Krkic slotted the hosts ahead early on after a grievous error from Memphis Depay, and Marko Arnautovic made it 2-0 just before the half-hour mark with a 20-yard thunderbolt.

    The second period was end-to-end as the visitors searched for a way back in, but both Jack Butland and David De Gea were in good form and closed the door on any further goals.

    Here, B/R picks its winners and losers from the game.

Winner: Marko Arnautovic, Stoke City

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    Marko Arnautovic took his second Manchester-based victim of the season Saturday, schooling the United defence and having a big hand in an impressive 2-0 win.

    He constantly breached the space in behind the defensive line, running off the shoulder of Ashley Young with great success, and he scored an absolute scorcher to double the hosts’ lead.

    After destroying Manchester City earlier in the month, it was no surprise to see him turn on the style here. He even tracked back studiously, helping Erik Pieters with right-sided attacks.

Loser: Memphis Depay, Manchester United

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    Memphis Depay’s debut season for Manchester United has been nothing short of disastrous so far, and Saturday’s events put a star on the top of an extremely disappointing Christmas tree.

    His attempted headed back pass to De Gea in the first half was weak and got caught in the wind, allowing Glen Johnson to steal in and square it to Bojan for a 1-0 lead.

    Hooked at half-time for Wayne Rooney as a result of his ineffectiveness, it’s anyone’s guess as to when we’ll see him again next.

Winner: Bojan Krkic, Stoke City

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    Bojan had a magical, irresistible game for Stoke City on Saturday, deservedly hauling in Sky Sports’ broadcast Man of the Match award.

    He scored the opener, coolly slotting home from close range after excellent work by Glen Johnson, and he threatened throughout the contest with his movement, speed, passing and attacking intuition.

    It was his clever through-ball that put Arnautovic one-on-one with De Gea in the first half, and he tore Phil Jones to pieces in the second, making his legs wobble like jelly as he tracked left and right.

Loser: Marouane Fellaini, Manchester United

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    Marouane Fellaini will once again draw the ire of the Manchester United fanbase after a very poor performance against Stoke City. It’s tough to recall many positive moments for the Belgian over the course of the 90 minutes he played.

    He missed two easy chances, one in each half. The first, which was flagged offside anyway, saw him pass a finish calmly into Butland’s hands with the goalkeeper on the ground following a sprawling save. The second was even worse, as he tapped a square ball into Butland’s body from five yards out when it may have been easier to score.

    When he wasn’t squandering big chances, he wasn’t doing an awful lot else. On paper, the attempt to pair him with Anthony Martial up top was a decent strategy, but in practice it fell flat. Geoff Cameron bossed the aerial duel in the middle.

Winner: Ryan Shawcross, Stoke City

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    Ryan Shawcross had a fantastic day against his former club Manchester United; the victories are always just that little bit sweeter when they come against the side who sold you when you were trying to break through.

    The Englishman was clean and clinical in the tackle, dispossessing Manchester United’s uber-expensive forwards with ease throughout. One particular tackle on Anthony Martial in the second half was timed to perfection.

    There were a couple of communication errors with Butland, but nothing that cost or endangered his side. “Shawcross [is] treating his former club's multimillion-pound forwards like actual children,” tweeted Jonathan Fadugba of Just Football.

Loser: Louis van Gaal, Manchester United

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    Coming into this fixture, Louis van Gaal was under heaps of pressure. Rumours had floated just before Christmas on Twitter that he’d been sacked, as noted by the Manchester Evening News' Chris Slater, and his pre-match conference lasted just five minutes after he stormed out in protest at what some journalists had been writing.

    He made a good pre-match move in dropping Wayne Rooney and starting Ander Herrera—signalling his intent to attack a little more—but United started sluggishly and soon found themselves two goals down. Rooney, on as a half-time sub, actually improved things for the Red Devils.

    But the damage was done in the first half, according to the United manager, who said as much to the press after the game.

    "My thoughts are that we didn't dare to play our football in the first half and then we gave a really bad goal away. At that time it was too much," the Dutchman said.

    The calls for Van Gaal to be sacked now will be defeaning; this may just be the final straw as far as Ed Woodward and the board are concerned. Four losses in a row!