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Live Commentary: Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City - as it happened

Relive Sports Mole's live commentary of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford, which ended in a 3-0 home win.
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Manchester United welcomed Stoke City to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Tuesday knowing that another slip-up would further harm their chances of finishing in the top four.

Man United were 2-0 ahead inside 23 minutes, however, with Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial both on the scoresheet for the home side, who put together arguably their best half of football this season.

Wayne Rooney then made it 3-0 early in the second period and that was where the scoring ended as Louis van Gaal's team returned to winning ways in the top flight.

Read how it all unfolded in Sports Mole's minute-by-minute live commentary of the action below.


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Evening all! Sports Mole's live Premier League coverage continues from Old Trafford as Manchester United welcome Stoke City. We are ready for another goal-fest at the home of Man United, said with my most serious of faces. The spotlight will once again be on Louis van Gaal as he prepares to take on Mark Hughes, who tonight will take charge of Stoke in the Premier League for the 100th time.

HEAD2HEAD! Stoke have actually lost all seven of their Premier League games at Old Trafford and in all, have lost 11 of their 15 top-flight meetings with the Red Devils, recording just two wins in the process. Both of those victories have come in the last four matches, however, and they recorded a 2-0 victory when the pair met at the Britannia on Boxing Day. The Potters were also only narrowly beaten (2-1) when they travelled to Old Trafford in the league last season.

Right, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news. Both managers have problems at the back and I might well be needed to step in for the hosts here...

TEAMS:

UNITED: De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, CBJ; Fellaini, Carrick; Lingard, Mata, Martial; Rooney

STOKE: Butland; Johnson, Wollscheid, Muniesa, Pieters; Whelan, Afellay; Arnautovic, Bojan, Walters; Crouch


So there we have it. Matteo Darmian and Michael Carrick return to the starting XI for Man United, replacing Guillermo Varela and Morgan Schneiderlin in the process. Memphis Depay and Ander Herrera once again have to be content with places on the bench, however, with Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata selected in addition to in-form attacking pair Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney.

Michael Carrick of Manchester United walks with Louis van Gaal Manager of Manchester United after the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on August 8, 2015© Getty Images


As for Stoke, new record signing Giannelli Imbula is not involved tonight as he waits for international clearance, but Hughes has been able to select Glen Johnson, Marko Arnautovic and Jonathan Walters, who were all doubts ahead of the match. Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron are still injured, but Marc Muniesa has made a timely return to the heart of the defence. There is no room for Xherdan Shaqiri in the XI, meanwhile, with Peter Crouch given a rare start in the league.

So there we have it. The two teams are in and we are now little over 40 minutes from kickoff on this mild evening in Manchester. Man United really cannot afford another slip-up here as they battle to stay in touch with the top four, but Stoke will enter the match knowing that a win would see them move to within one point of Van Gaal's side, which is an indication of just how close it is from 10th to fifth (five points).

I made a pretty poor joke in the introduction about the lack of goals at Old Trafford, but the numbers are there for all to see. Man United have only scored 12 goals in their 11 home matches this season – only basement side Aston Villa have a worse record. That said, the Reds have only conceded five goals in their 11 home games, which is fewer than any other Premier League team. Zero-zero tonight then.

Indeed, Man United have only scored 28 goals in their opening 23 league games this season, which is their lowest total at this stage of a campaign since the 1989-90 season. A total of 37 points has left them in fifth spot in the table, just one point above sixth-place West Ham United and five points off fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur, who also both play tonight. Defeat here and at Chelsea at the weekend could well see Van Gaal's side slip into seventh or eighth depending on other results.

Louis van Gaal and Ryan Giggs look on prior to during the FA Cup fourth-round match between Derby County and Manchester United at iPro Stadium on January 29, 2016© Getty Images


That said, defeat at home to Southampton in the league last time out was Man United's first loss in 2016 and they will enter this match off the back of an impressive 3-1 win at Derby County in the FA Cup on Friday night. They also won at Liverpool on January 17, but it has been a case of one step towards and two steps back for Van Gaal's team this season. They just have not been able to find consistency.

It had been claimed that Van Gaal would be relieved of his duties at the club if Man United lost at Stoke on Boxing Day. Well, that occurred and the Dutchman is still in the hot-seat more than one month later. Another disappointing result tonight, however, would only increase the cries for Jose Mourinho, especially with Man City announcing the appointment of Pep Guardiola from the end of the season.

It is a massive February for Man United, who will travel to Chelsea on Sunday, before making the trip to Sunderland on February 13. Then comes the first leg of their Europa League last-32 clash with Midtylland, before an FA Cup fifth-round match at Shrewsbury Town. The month then ends with the return match against Midtjylland at Old Trafford and a home Premier League fixture with Arsenal.

Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring in the FA Cup fourth-round match between Derby County and Manchester United at iPro Stadium on January 29, 2016© Getty Images


As for Stoke, they will enter this match off the back of three consecutive defeats in all competitions. One of those was in the Premier League (3-0 at Leicester), while they were eliminated on penalties in the League Cup semi-finals by Liverpool, despite winning 1-0 at Anfield. The Potters were then beaten 1-0 at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup fourth round at the weekend.

It has been another solid Premier League campaign to date, however, with the Potters sitting ninth in the table. That said, they have only won one of their last five away league matches and have suffered defeats at Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Leicester. As mentioned, Stoke have also lost on each of their seven Premier League trips to this stadium, but they will not be fearful of this Man United.

Tonight will be a special match for Potters boss and former Red Mark Hughes, who will take charge of Stoke in the Premier League for the 100th time. His record reads – won 37, drawn 26 and lost 36, but the 52-year-old has lost on each of his last eight visits to Old Trafford as a manager. Victory tonight would be the perfect way to celebrate his century at the helm.

Mark Hughes manager of Stoke City gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Stoke City at the Boleyn Ground on December 12, 2015© Getty Images


Stoke were also the big spenders on transfer deadline day – smashing their transfer record by bringing in highly-rated Giannelli Imbula from Porto for £18.3m. The French Under-21 international has signed a five-and-a-half-year deal with the English club and is a signal of their intent in the market. Suddenly Stoke look a team capable of breaking into the top six in the top flight.

DID YOU KNOW? Van Gaal has a lower Premier League win ratio as Man United boss (49.2%) than David Moyes (50%). Bring back Sir Alex for another 10 years, that's what I say!

PREDICTION! This is a tough one to call, which says more about Man United than it does about Stoke. Van Gaal's side should win, but they have dropped so many points in these type of games this season. I have changed my mind a couple of times, but am backing the hosts to win 2-1 here.

A reminder of the two teams for tonight...

UNITED: De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, CBJ; Fellaini, Carrick; Lingard, Mata, Martial; Rooney

STOKE: Butland; Johnson, Wollscheid, Muniesa, Pieters; Whelan, Afellay; Arnautovic, Bojan, Walters; Crouch


KICKOFF! Here we go then - both sets of players join us on the pitch for the first period. Will there be a first-half goal at Old Trafford? We shall see! The home side kick us off here...

... it has been a decent start from the home side, who have been on the front foot since the first whistle. The home supporters will be demanding a performance tonight and it would be nice to see a goal in the first half! Martial sets up Mata outside the box, but his effort is deflected over!

Martial was excellent against Derby in the FA Cup last time out and the Frenchman has already looked dangerous in the opening four minutes of this match. Stoke's first opportunity to break comes down the left with Arnautovic, but Darmian is quick across the turf to clear the danger.

Lingard threatens to run beyond Pieters after a smart pick-out from Carrick, but the Stoke defender is quick enough to deal with the danger. It has been a decent start from Man United, who have looked to move the ball quicker outside the box. Rooney has a strike, but Butland saves.

Half-chance for Stoke this time as Afellay is allowed to carry the ball towards the Man United box before having a go, but Mata makes the block and the ball loops into the arms of De Gea.

Martial's pace continues to cause Stoke a problem, but Wollscheid does well to front-up the Frenchman and deal with the danger. It must be said that there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium at the moment. These supporters will always back their side, there is no doubt about that.

Decent pressure from Stoke in the last couple of minutes as smart work from Bojan forces a corner and Man United are lucky to escape what looked to be a dangerous situation when Smalling is given a free kick. Twelve minutes on the clock and we are level at 0-0 at Old Trafford.

CHANCE! Mata escapes the offside trap and looks for the bottom corner after a smart pass from Martial, but the Spaniard's effort is wide of the post. Better from Man United!

GOAL! Man United 1-0 Stoke (Lingard)

Man United score in the first half of a match! A corner is worked short and Borthwick-Jackson delivers towards the back post, where Lingard is on hand to head into an empty net!

It was a super cross from the young full-back and Lingard had all sorts of space at the back post. Martial almost makes it 2-0 after dancing into the box, but he hits the side netting!

Little bit of pressure from Stoke as the ball falls to Johnson inside the Man United box, but his effort is blocked, moments after Crouch had risen well at the far post. All happening here!

This is much, much better from Man United, who look capable of scoring each time they break into the final third of the field. Hughes is on the touchline dishing out instructions at the moment and he seems to want more intensity in the middle of the park. It is a super game of football here.

You just get the feeling that the next goal - if there indeed is one - will be vital in terms of the final result. Man United are looking for a second and that would place them in full command, but a goal for Stoke would once again bring the jitters, especially in the stands. Very delicately poised here.

GOAL! Man United 2-0 Stoke (Martial)

Oh that is a little bit special! The home side have their second of the match as Rooney finds Martial, who curls a sensational effort into the top corner. Oh my word it was just beautiful!

I am not entirely sure what Martial had for his dinner tonight, but I want some. The Frenchman is beating players at will and looks capable of scoring each time he finds space in the final third of the field. Stoke just cannot seem to deal with the pressure at the moment from the Red Devils.

Arnautovic works a yard of space outside the Man United box, but his effort is wide.

Little over 15 minutes of the first period remaining and this is much, much more like it. Stoke are not afraid to commit players forward, which is leaving space for the Red Devils. In truth, the visitors will need to open up in a bid to get back in the match, which will create more and more space.

STOKE SUB! Stoke are forced into a change as Bardsley replaces Wollscheid.

Johnson is playing centre-back for Stoke at the moment, with Bardsley moving into the right-back role. Afellay attempts to thread a pass into Arnautovic as Stoke break forward, but Smalling is across on the cover to clear down-field. Still 2-0 Man United with 32 minutes on the clock.

Another half-chance for Stoke as Walters sets up Afellay outside the box, but the Dutchman's effort was always rising over the crossbar. There is still something in this game for the visitors.

CHANCE! Walters comes close for Stoke this time after producing a wonderful piece of control inside the box, but his effort is wide of the post. Pressure on Man United here.


Martial again drives into the Stoke box, but the Frenchman loses control at the vital moment and fouls Bardsley when attempting to regain the ball. You just get the feeling that the hosts need one more goal to make absolutely sure of the points. Stoke have had some good moments here.

CHANCE! Wonderful chance for the home side to score a third as Darmian puts a super cross onto the head of Mata, but the Spaniard's effort is wide of the post! Should have scored!

Stoke have certainly had chances in this first period, but their finishing has been disappointing. Walters has proved a valuable asset in the air and has beaten both Darmian and Borthwick-Jackson to the majority of high balls. End-to-end football as we approach the break here.

Martial embarks on another wonderful run and attempts to slide a pass into Mata, but the Spaniard is caught on his heels and Butland is out to claim. Still 2-0 to the home side here.

Stoke have a free kick in a dangerous position inside the Man United half...

... De Gea collects the high ball and that might be that for this first period.

One additional minute to be played at the end of the first period.

HALF-TIME: Man United 2-0 Stoke

So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Man United leading 2-0 courtesy of goals from Lingard and Martial. That is right, you heard, Man United have scored in the first half of a match at Old Trafford for the first time since September! Stoke have had their moments in the final third, but only a serious turnaround will prevent the hosts from claiming all the points here.

STATISTICS! Man United have hit the target with four of their 12 attempts tonight, but they have actually had less possession than Stoke (53%). The Potters, meanwhile, have had six shots, but have failed to hit the target. Hughes will be looking for more quality in the final third of the field.

BENCH WATCH! Man United are without a number of defenders, but Van Gaal does have options in the final third, with the likes of Depay, Herrera and Pereira all available. Stoke, meanwhile, have already been forced into one change - Bardsley replacing Wollscheid - but Hughes still has options in the shape of Diouf, Ireland, Shaqiri and Joselu on what is a very attack-minded bench at Old Trafford.

MATCH PIC!

Anthony Martial celebrates getting United's second during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Stoke on February 2, 2016© Getty Images


RESTART! Here we go then - both sets of players re-join us on the pitch for the second period. Can Stoke find a route back into this match? It is the Potters that resume the action at Old Trafford...

... not an awful lot to report in the early stages of the second period, although Stoke came close through Arnautovic, who struck a low effort from the edge of the box. Neither manager made a change at the interval, but I suspect both will already have a couple of alterations in mind here.

GOAL DISALLOWED! Rooney knocks Johnson off the ball before firing into the back of the net. The referee initially allows it, but then pulls it back for a foul! Rooney is not pleased!

It was the linesman that actually gave that decision, but he was further away from the referee, which makes the call very strange indeed. Anyway, Man United have possession of the ball here.

GOAL! Man United 3-0 Stoke (Rooney)

What a wonderful goal that is! Man United have their third as Martial sets up Rooney, who has the simple task of firing home from close range. The first pass was from Mata and Martial put it on a plate for the skipper. Well, this is much more like it from Man United, that is for sure!

BOOKING! Darmian (Man United) is booked for a foul on Afellay.

Another half-chance for the home team as a swift counter ends with Martial racing into the Stoke box, but he fires over the crossbar. Little over 30 minutes of football remaining here.

It appears that Ireland will be coming on for Stoke as Hughes looks for a route back into this match. In truth, the game is gone, but they will be wary of conceding four or five here.

BOOKING! Martial (Man United) is booked for a foul on Bardsley.

STOKE SUB! Ireland replaces Bojan for the away team.

Possession football from Stoke as they attempt to ease some of the pressure on their back four, but Man United are very comfortable as they shuffle from left to right and keep their shape.

Still no movement on the Man United bench, but I suspect that Van Gaal will be considering changes ahead of the Chelsea game this weekend, which is another massive fixture.

Not an awful lot to report in the last few minutes as both teams exchange spells of possession in the middle of the park. In truth, this game was over when that third goal went in and Stoke's tempo has dropped off since then. Crouch continues to fight for high balls against Smalling here.

Is Ryan Giggs about to become the new manager of Celtic? He is not here tonight and reports on social media have claimed that the Welshman is in talks with the Scottish club!

Crouch looks to have a super chance for the away team after meeting a wonderful cross from Pieters, but the Englishman had just moved into an offside position. Anyway, his effort was wide of the post. Still no movement on the Man United bench as we approach the final stages here.

Not a great deal happening at the moment as Man United keep hold of the possession.

Rooney strikes one from distance, but his effort was always rising over the crossbar.

As it stands, Man United would still be fifth and five points behind Arsenal, who are dropping to fourth as things stand. Spurs are going third, City second and Leicester, incredibly, still top!

MAN UNITED SUB! Depay replaces Martial for the home side.

MAN UNITED SUB! Herrera replaces Fellaini for the home side.

Fellaini is going down the tunnel for some treatment and does not look too comfortable. There has not been a chance of note at Old Trafford since Rooney made it 3-0 early in the half.

CLOSE! Depay comes close to adding a fourth after Lingard works the ball into the Dutchman, but his effort just moves wide of the far post. Should have scored!

BOOKING! Ireland (Stoke) is booked for a late challenge on Lingard.

The stands have started to empty at Old Trafford, with the home supporters confident that their team have claimed all the points tonight. There will be another change for the Reds though...

... MAN UNITED SUB! Pereira replaces Mata.

Pass, pass, pass from Man United as they keep hold of the possession.

Three additional minutes to be played here.

The home supporters are in fine voice as we enter the final minute of this match. Man United are going to remain fifth in the table and still five points off the top four, but this is a very important result ahead of the trip to Chelsea at the weekend. For Stoke, they have been decimated by defensive injuries.

FULL-TIME: Man United 3-0 Stoke

So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Man United running out comfortable winners on home soil courtesy of goals from Lingard, Martial and Rooney. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action from Old Trafford. Until next time!

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Manchester United's French striker Anthony Martial (c) reacts after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group B second-leg football match VfL Wolfsburg vs Manchester United in Wolfsburg, central Germany, on December 8, 2015.
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