Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw by Stoke City at Old Trafford on Sunday. Anthony Martial opened the scoring for the hosts in the 69th minute, but Joe Allen levelled for the Potters in the dying stages of the contest.

 

The Red Devils’ three-game winning streak was brought to a halt when a resilient Stoke City side held them to a draw in the Premier League. United dominated the game from start to finish, but failed to register all three points because of their poor finishing combined with a superb display from Stoke City keeper Lee Grant.

Here are TheHardTackle’s talking points from the game:

Manchester United’s intricate passing was a sight to behold

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Ander Herrera of Manchester United warms up prior to kick off during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Ander Herrera of Manchester United warms up prior to kick off during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

After the game, United manager Jose Mourinho labelled this as his side’s best performance of the season. The Portuguese said that the Reds played even better than they did in the 4-1 thumping of Leicester City a week ago. According to him, his side should have won this game convincingly and laid down a marker for the teams above them in the table.

Given the way the game unfolded, few would disagree with him. The players showed good understanding in the final third, their one touch football was crisp and intricate and United looked threatening every time they had possession.

The likes of Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera were constantly on the move, rotating positions and making runs off each other to create something for their side. The Old Trafford faithful were pleased to see their players revert to an attacking brand of football.

An uncharacteristic display from a Mourinho side that failed to kill the game

Mourinho is known to be a pragmatist and has a tendency to kill the game after the 60th minute mark. For the first hour of football, his side is constantly on the front foot, looking to make things tick in the final third.

However, against Stoke City, after United took the lead in the 69th minute through an exquisite Anthony Martial strike, they failed to kill the tempo of the game. While they are known to play an attacking brand of football from start to end, securing the result is sometimes the better alternative. Also, with title rivals Liverpool extending their lead over the Red Devils, it was crucial for them to come out of the game with maximum points.

Lee Grant proves to be the difference between the two sides

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Lee Grant of Stoke City celebrates after the final whistle during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Lee Grant of Stoke City celebrates after the final whistle during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Given the absence of a superb young goalkeeper like Jack Butland, it seemed the Potters’ task at Old Trafford against the likes of Ibrahimovic, Martial, Pogba and Rashford would be all the more difficult. But from the first minute of the contest, Stoke’s reserve goalkeeper Lee Grant was at hand to thwart the Red Devils.

In the first attack of the game, he was forced to make a double save off Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s shot. Minutes later, he made another impeccable save from a well struck shot by Jesse Lingard that was destined to go into the back of the net.

He was in top form throughout the game and was duly credited with the Man of the Match award. His performances did not go unnoticed after the full-time whistle as both managers heaped praise on the 33-year-old.

United are overly reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic hit the ground running at Manchester United by scoring in his first four games, but has recently shown signs of slowing down. His movement has not been at the same level as it was in his initial matches, and that may be a sign for Jose Mourinho to use him more sparingly.

At 34, it was virtually impossible for Ibrahimovic to play 90 minutes on Thursday and do the same three days later after intense training sessions. His legs are already showing signs of ageing and it is only fair to give him a rest every once in a while.

It also seems that in games where he is unable to make his mark, United struggle for options to find the back of the net. Barring the Leicester game when a number of players managed to record a goal, Mourinho is heavily reliant on Ibrahimovic to perform week in, week out.

Against Stoke, the Swede did not have the best of games despite having a number of chances. His finishing was disappointing and his first touch also let him down on a couple of occasions.

Stoke show tremendous grit and win their first points at Old Trafford since 1980

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Joe Allen of Stoke City (C) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with his team mate Glen Johnson of Stoke City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Joe Allen of Stoke City (C) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with his team mate Glen Johnson of Stoke City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Stoke were outplayed from the beginning of the match and it would not have come as a surprise for manager Mark Hughes. The Potters were on a woeful run of form and were languishing in 20th position on the table. Presumably none of the players expected to come away with anything from the game at Old Trafford.

Yet, after holding United to a stalemate for 68 minutes, the Stoke players grew positive. Despite going behind soon after, they did not lift their foot off the pedal and kept fighting for an equaliser. It was a lucky breakthrough as the usually reliable David de Gea spilled the ball from a shot, but due credit must be given to Stoke for the way they clawed their way back into the contest.

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