Manchester United vs Stoke City Match Analysis

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Down a manager, and in a horrendous run of form from Stoke, meant an absolute must win for Mourinho's Manchester United, and United garnered all three points.

Buoyed by the return of Antonio Valencia, the Red Devils once again used the wings to propel their attack.

Valencia made instant impact.

The right back, who had been off the pitch due to injury since a week before the holiday season, used his pace to cause problems for the embattled Stoke back line.

In the 9th minute, after pressuring Stoke down the right flank, Valencia drifted into the box, created space form himself with a quick dribble, and used his left foot to curl a Messi-esque effort into the far corner to give United a 1-0 lead.

The return of Valencia, and the expectation of having the lion's share of possession, meant United could use a very aggressive 4-2-3-1 formation with Valencia and Shaw turning the formation into a 2-1-5-1 when United was in attack with many interchangeable parts.

Shaw and Valencia manned the wings while Smalling and Jones held down the center-back positions. Matic and Pogba formed the "holding midfield" position, while Mata, Lingard, Martial and Lukaku were in attack.

Of course, Pogba was his usual box-to-box self, and Mourinho's men added a wrinkle with Lukaku drifting to the right wing, even playing a very nice cross into the box that helped keep Stoke defenders on their heels.

When United was in attack, the combination of Pogba, Mata, Martial and Lingard in the midfield was too much for Stoke to handle.

Amid transfer speculation, Martial turned in one of his best performances in a United shirt including a wonderful goal to give United a 2-0 lead before the half.

In the 38th minute, Romelu Lukaku once again overlapping with Valencia, did well to hold up the ball on the right-wing.  With defenders drawn to the man from Belgium, Lukaku squared the ball to Pogba who in turn slotted one to Martial at the top of the box.

Martial hit it first time, and placed it upper-90 and United doubles its advantage on the day.

Man-marking has been an issue for United, and despite the scoreline, it was an issue again today.

After United took its 1-0 lead, Phil Jones came up with a heroic block of an Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting effort at goal that could have leveled things at Old Trafford.  United's defense was broken down, but Jones was alert to the play and threw himself in front of the Choupo effort, to help his keeper and the Red Devils hold its narrow advantage.

Just before the half, with United holding a 2-0 advantage, Stoke almost brought itself back in the game through its star Xherden Shaqiri.  The Swiss attacker found himself free in the box and fired a promising shot toward the bottom corner in first half stoppage time.  de Gea launched himself across goal and calmly ushered the ball over the end line and United took its 2-0 lead into halftime.

Perhaps the best sign for United came in the second half.  With United calmly in control in the 72nd minute, Romelu Lukaku did well to hold up the ball in the center of the box.

With two defenders on him, Lukaku calmly turned and fired a left-footed shot into the net and United had a commanding 3-0 lead.

Lukaku started the season on fire, and of late, had suffered a dip in form with regards to goals.  For strikers, confidence is paramount and a strong goal like that should do wonders for the Belgium man.

United got what it needed today and is starting to round into form at the best possible time this season.

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