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United extend unbeaten run to 10 games but no New Year's spark as Van Gaal's side held at Stoke

The visitors were fortunate not to concede a second-half penalty.

Next up for United is a trip to Yeovil in the FA Cup.
Next up for United is a trip to Yeovil in the FA Cup.
Image: Lynne Cameron

MANCHESTER UNITED EXTENDED their unbeaten run to 10 Premier League games with a 1-1 draw at Stoke City on New Year’s Day.

Radamel Falcao’s third United goal earned a share of the spoils from an encounter affected by heavy winds after Ryan Shawcross had given Stoke an early lead at the Britannia Stadium.

Stoke headed into the clash having won back-to-back games over the festive period and, despite star man Bojan being unavailable due to a hamstring injury, the feel-good factor remained for the hosts as Shawcross opened the scoring in the second minute.

Louis van Gaal’s men came back into the game, however, and went into the break level thanks to Falcao.

The second half did not bring any other goals, although Stoke ended the game having been denied a clear penalty for a Chris Smalling handball and seen Peter Crouch rattle the woodwork.

Stoke could not have enjoyed a better start as they went in front almost immediately courtesy of their captain.

A well-worked Marko Arnautovic corner to the back post found Crouch, who nodded down for former United man Shawcross to side-foot a volley home.

The visitors came back into the game thereafter, although clear-cut chances were not initially forthcoming.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Manchester United - Britannia Stadium It was another frustrating afternoon for the United boss Source: Lynne Cameron

And they could easily have been further behind when Jonny Evans failed to deal with a long ball, gifting Mame Biram Diouf a golden chance that he somehow curled wide.

Stoke were left to rue that missed opportunity even more in the 26th minute as United equalised.

Again it was a set-piece that proved critical, with Michael Carrick flicking on Wayne Rooney’s corner for Falcao to cleverly sweep home despite an awkward bounce.

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That continued to look the most likely route for another goal, with typically blustery winds at the Britannia creating issues for both sides.

Those conditions were hardly befitting of a footballing spectacle, illustrated by the teams struggling for fluency.

United began to take control around the hour mark, yet Stoke were unfortunate not to be given a penalty when Smalling handled Crouch’s header.

Britain Soccer Premier League Falcao equalised but that was as good as it got for the visitors Source: AP/Press Association Images

Van Gaal’s side almost took full advantage of that let-off when Juan Mata chipped into Robin van Persie, who followed fine chest control by flicking a superb effort with the outside of his foot wide.

They were still vulnerable from set-pieces, however, epitomised by Crouch heading another Arnautovic delivery against the post.

Diouf was next to threaten, seeing his powerful, deflected volley fly wide as United failed to deal with another dangerous corner.

United came on strong towards the end of game, even if the best chance fell to Stoke when Oussama Assaidi hit straight at David de Gea.

But both sides were left to settle for a point in the Premier League’s opening match of 2015.

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