The annual victory against Stoke City, a team who had scored only once in the Premier League at Old Trafford while conceding 12, arrived as expected on Saturday but what did we learn from the game ?
Firstly, it was obvious from the start that Stoke would sling in crosses seeking Peter Crouch and that Jon Walters would try and get to a knockdown. So the job for the defence was to stop the supply. One single tactic, one simple solution.
Yet, Charlie Adam looked like the player Liverpool thought he was for almost 30 minutes as he drifted right and left and curled in crosses that left David De Gea in fear and our centre backs in panic.
As Patrice Evra and Rafael were exposed by Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia’s reluctance to come to their aid it was the badly timed trademark Paul Scholes bad tackle that gave Stoke the chance to take the lead as Wayne Rooney’s inept attempt to mark Ryan Shawcross gave him an own goal to mark his first Premier league goal of a poor start to the season.
Scholes continued his immature performance with several attempts to attract a red card as the real United played at the other end. It was truly a game of two halves except it was in each half of the field. Manchester United in attack and Manchester Disjointed in defence.
The formation was a weird 4-4-2 with Welbeck and Valencia making it 4-2-4 on occasion as both sides vacated the midfield as though it contained landmines.
Upfront we woke up after the Stoke goal and Rooney’s equalizer was the product of a wonderful left foot out swinger from Robin van Persie making Fatman the first United player to score at both ends since David Beckham. Our boy Van Persie made Ronaldo look s***e.
After that we took control, despite Welbeck missing chance after chance, a 3-1 lead looked safe and comfortable as Stoke faded badly.
But then that Disjointed lot arrived again and Michael Knightly, looking like Leo Messi with a bald head and 50 lbs, drove through four players and scored just as Jan Vertongen did for Spurs. Game on again.
United arrived about 10 minutes later as the schizophrenic nature of this side mood swings from awful to excellent, and the margin was restored.
So we won, scored 4, and looked great in the attacking half of the field.
But defensively, from Michael Carrick and Scholes to De Gea we look open and leaky.
This team is like Kevin Keegan's Newcastle. The talent up front can be special but it leaks goals and lacks midfield control.
Without Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley the interplay of Rooney, van Persie and Welbeck is really good. Valencia is a strong player if a little predictable.
But we must fear the attack of a City or Chelsea against our defence in which Rio Ferdinand is slow, Evra is not positionally smart and Jonny Evans is rash. With De Gea in total fear of crosses we allow far too many chances to the opposition and against better teams than Stoke it’s just not good enough.
I imagine this performance will mean 4-5-1 next weekend as we play for a clean sheet. Don't expect much possession or threat on their goal. Sadly that's where we are right now.
By Steve Burrows CBE @ifollowsteve