Wednesday, December 18, 2013

All Hail the Capital One Cup: Manchester United 2 - Stoke City 0

Manchester United rode an improved second half performance to a 2-0 victory over Stoke City Wednesday night at a cold and wet Britannia Stadium.  As it has on so many occasions, the introduction of Javier Hernandez changed the outcome of the contest, with the Mexican's movement and speed bringing a much-needed spark of electricity and pace to the United attack near the hour mark.  While the first half was an all too typical encounter with the disciplined hosts, it was during the latter half of football that the visitors finally gained the upper hand in a down-and-dirty struggle to advance to the Capital One Cup semi-finals.

If the first half was notable for anything other than the complete lack of opportunities for either side, it was the fierce weather which bore down on players and spectators alike, with heavy gusts, lashing rain and even hail bringing the proceedings to a temporary halt.  The conditions improved markedly after the interval, as did United's performance: Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young in particular seemed to enjoy a second shot on the notoriously tough Stoke-on-Trent proving ground.  Herewith, the individual player ratings on a cold and wet, but ultimately satisfying night for the Red Devils:

De Gea: A surprise starter, whose inclusion showed just how important this Cup means to his Manager. Little do do but try to stay warm on a miserable evening. 7.0

Rafael: Rarely ventured forward before the interval, but looked rejuvenated after the break. 6.5

Smalling: Stuck to Crouch like a hobo on a ham sandwich. Solid effort. 7.0

Evans: Kept things well under control on defense, but missed the only half-opportunity that fell United's way in the first half. Still, partnered well with Smalling to form a fortress in front of his 'keeper. 7.0

Evra: Another inconsistent effort on defense, but picked out a beauty on the attacking end for the visitors' second tally of the evening. 7.0

Valencia: The Ecuadorian found it difficult to get untracked before the break, but became much more influential as the game wore on. 7.0

Cleverley: Appointed as field general today, but turned the ball over too often for our liking. It still seems as if his most basic instinct is to slow down the game. 6.0

Jones: Broke up play in the midfield and gave a disciplined performance throughout. 7.0

Anderson: Big man in the middle who lost his hustle early. Displayed terrible decision making, with way too many speculative and undercooked shots. 4.5

Young: Covered a lot of ground but rarely got into dangerous positions before the break. Wasted multiple free kicks on the evening, but hit an absolute laser of a shot when it counted most and made much better decisions in the second forty five. 6.5

Welbeck: Hustled back on defense and drifted deep to touch the ball, but was largely starved of service or failed to make the proper runs. 6.0


Hernandez (Anderson), 58:  Added instant electricity to his side, and his holdup play led to the visitor's winning goal. 7.0

Fletcher (Welbeck), 82: Gained some valuable pitch time. N/A

This is farlieonfootie for December 18.

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