Stoke 1 Manchester United 1
Stoke City 1 Manchester United 1, Britannia Stadium, English Premier League, September 24, 2011. Table topping Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw by fifth placed Stoke City. Luis Nani opened the scoring with a fine individual display in the first half, but a brilliant headed goal from Peter Crouch after the restart ended United´s winning streak.
Reigning Premier League Champions Manchester United had opened the 2011-12 Premiership campaign with a morale-boosting 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns and followed up by trashing Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 at Old Trafford eight days later. Sir Alex Ferguson´s side confirmed their good form by demolishing longtime adversaries Arsenal 8-2 at home on the last Sunday of August before they defeated relegation tipped Bolton Wanderers and 2010-11 Premier League runners-up Chelsea in their next two matches. Then, in their sixth Premiership fixture of the season, Manchester United found themselves up against Tony Pulis´s Stoke City, who they had beaten by a 2-1 score in the corresponding meeting the previous year courtesy of two goals by Javier Hernandez in the 27th and 86th minutes respectively. It soon became clear to everyone present at Britannia Stadium, however, that The Reds sorely missed Three Lions international Wayne Rooney who had not been risked due to a hamstring problem, and, to top it all, they were also without the services of Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans who had been injured during the warm up.
The Manchester United players appealed for a penalty after Chicharito had been fouled inside the eighteen-yard box by Stoke City and England defender Jonathan Woodgate in the third minute of the clash, but no spot-kick was given by referee Peter Walton of Northamptonshire. The Mexican marksman needed treatment after the challenge, though, and he was replaced by fellow frontman Michael Owen eight minutes later. The Old Trafford men went into the lead anyway when Luis Nani brought the ball into the penalty area before the Portuguese flank forward hammered a low strike past Bosnia and Herzegovina international shot stopper Asmir Begovic and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net three minutes before the half-hour mark. But the promising start fizzled out and the home team almost equalised only a couple of minutes later when a dangerous high cross by right winger Jermaine Pennant eventually found its way to right fullback Andy Wilkinson, whose ferocious shot was miraculously touched on to the crossbar by Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. And the Staffordshire club came close again just a few moments later as Republic of Ireland attacker Jonathan Walters forced De Gea into another stunning save with a well executed cross-shot.
Following the break, Stoke City finally managed to level the score seven minutes into the second half when £10 million signing Peter Crouch headed a corner from left winger Matthew Etherington past De Gea and into the net from six yards out. The former Tottenham Hotspur favourite nearly scored a second goal for his new club a mere three minutes later, only to see his effort superbly saved by De Gea. Ryan Giggs, who had replaced Ashley Young in the 70th minute, came close to netting for Manchester United in stoppage time, but his left-footed half-volley went over the bar. After dropping two points against The Pottters, Manchester United were now ahead of neighbouring Premier League rivals Manchester City on goal difference. Stoke City Team: Asmir Begovic, Andy Wilkinson, Ryan Shawcross, Jonathan Woodgate, Rory Delap, Marc Wilson, Matthew Etherington, Jermaine Pennant, Glenn Whelan, Jonathan Walters, Peter Crouch. Substitutes: Robert Huth, Ryan Shotton, Matthew Upson, Wilson Palacios, Dean Whitehead, Cameron Jerome, Thomas Sorensen. Manchester United Team: David de Gea, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Patrice Evra, Oliveira Anderson, Darren Fletcher, Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez, Luis Nani. Substitutes: Fabio da Silva, Ryan Giggs, Ji-Sung Park, Federico Macheda, Michael Owen, Danny Welbeck, Anders Lindegaard.