Although not totally convincing throughout the game, two moments of brilliance in the first half from Antonio Valencia and Anthony Martial set Manchester United up for a comfortable win over Stoke City. Romelu Lukaku got back on the scoresheet, Valencia shrugged off his injury with a screamer and Paul Pogba produced another midfield masterclass. Here are our player ratings:
David De Gea: 6
As expected, De Gea was the less busy of the two keepers, however, he did have to make one world-class stop from Xherdan Shaqiri in the dying moments of the first half to maintain his clean sheet. The aerial threat was ever present with 6-foot-7 Peter Crouch lurking in the box, and the veteran striker forced the Spaniard into spilling the ball, only for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s attempt to be brilliantly saved by Phil Jones. Rarely tested in the second half.
Antonio Valencia: 7.5
Valencia returned from injury with a bang. His opening goal was a magnificent strike, curled exquisitely past Butland in goal. The captain looked like he had never been out, constantly getting forward and being a menace even in the late stages of the game. Defensively assured.
Phil Jones: 7
United’s clean sheet will disguise some issues between the center-back pairing, who often found themselves out of position in relation to one another. However, Jones was the better of the two, looking more assured both on the ball and his positioning. Made one world-class block to deny Choupo-Moting after De Gea failed to gather a cross.
Chris Smalling: 5
The lesser confident of the two center-backs. Although United didn’t concede, the reasoning was more of Stoke’s inadequacies going forward than United’s defensive capabilities. Smalling was often caught out of position, paying too much attention to Crouch and getting drawn out of shape. Better in the second half.
Luke Shaw: 6
A steady game for Shaw who was rarely troubled defensively with Shaqiri wanting to drift inside rather than take the left back on in the wider positions. A few ambitious attempts in the last third showed his desire to get forward, but an end product wasn’t quite there. Nevertheless, it is good to see him playing regularly.
Paul Pogba: 8 (Man of The Match)
Paul Pogba was once again the architect for United tonight, providing some wonderful assists, touches and passing throughout the game. The Frenchman got two assists on the night and now has nine in the Premier League – the most of any player so far this season. He was all over the park, defending when needed and probing Stoke City’s box constantly. A fantastic performance and the creative spark United needed.
Nemanja Matić: 5
Matić was off the pace once again today. Many assumed the warm weather training break would’ve done him good, but he still looked slow and lethargic on the ball. Still broke up play effectively and allowed Pogba to advance forward, but the creativeness he provided in the first half of the season has stagnated slightly.
Juan Mata: 5
Mata was constantly buzzing in the game tonight but with little product. Some nice touches and runs off the ball, he cannot be faulted for his effort yet frustrated with his ineffectuality.
Jesse Lingard: 6
After several excellent performances, Lingard was quieter tonight. He often gave the ball away at critical moments and failed to impact the game like he has done so frequently recently.
Anthony Martial: 7.5
Martial produced another moment of brilliance with his one goal tonight. Coming after 38 minutes, he sublimely curled the ball around Zouma and past Butland in goal. He ravaged Moritz Bauer throughout the game on the left-hand side and always looked like grabbing another.
Romelu Lukaku: 7
A good performance from the Belgian striker tonight who got on the scoresheet in the second half with some great hold-up play and a confident strikers finish. Linked well with Pogba, particularly in the second half and offered United an outlet constantly.
Marouane Fellaini (Sub, 80’): N/A
Too late for a rating.
Marcus Rashford (Sub, 80’): N/A
Too late for a rating.
Scott McTominay (Sub, 83’): N/A
Too late for a rating.
José Mourinho: 7
Mourinho seems to have reverted to a back four after experimenting with a back three for stages during the season. Having Pogba and Matić as the holding midfielders bodes for a defensive mind-set, which can be frustrating at times. Nevertheless, another clean sheet and three goals cannot be deemed negative.