Stoke City held Manchester United to a 2-2 draw at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday, thanks to a brace from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

Manchester United came into the match on Saturday hoping to make it 4 wins out of 4 to start their Premier League season – a statistic that United last achieved six years ago. Stoke City had been their bogey team of sorts in recent times and Saturday proved to be more of the same.

Mark Hughes saw his side display resilience on the field to become the first club to get the ball past David De Gea & co. while Stoke City also managed to come from behind after losing their early lead to earn a 2-2 draw. The Hard Tackle takes a look at some of the important storylines to emerge from the result.

Defensive errors come to the fore again for United

There were echoes that Manchester United had regained their defensive rigidity after 3 clean sheets in the first 3 matches. But, the Stoke match proved it was far from being the case. As soon as the game became an open affair, United were found to be vulnerable.

The ever dependable-looking Phil Jones and Eric Bailly were responsible for the goals and it looks like Jose Mourinho has to start integrating Victor Lindelof soon if he is to have a solid back-four.

Matteo Darmian too, was partly at fault for the first goal, which maybe shows a vulnerability at left-back – a position United were tipped to reinforce but failed or chose not to. However, this performance could see Ashley Young or Luke Shaw earn a shot at the position.

Mark Hughes and the handshake situation

It’s no surprise that there was another controversial situation surrounding the hand shake between two managers and one of them involved Mark Hughes. The manager has been in his fair share of handshake situations and Saturday saw him add another to the list.

It is believed that Mark Hughes uttered some expletives towards Jose Mourinho while shoving him on the touchline during the match, which resulted in Mourinho snub the Stoke City boss for a handshake at full-time.

The Curse Unites

Manchester United already seem to have a Stoke City curse in recent times, with the club registering just a single victory in the last five matchups. Add to it Jose Mourinho’s record of failing to get a win over Mark Hughes for 3 games straight and this match was always supposed to be a very complex affair.

And as it turns out, Mark Hughes made it to 4 consecutive matches without a loss against Mourinho – a record only bettered by Ronald Koeman while holding United to a 2-2 draw.

The touchline saw a heated exchange between the two managers. But, it clearly seems that Mark Hughes has figured out how to counter Jose Mourinho’s sides.

Mourinho’s tactical change backfires

Jose Mourinho chose to revert to a 4-3-3 for the Stoke City game – a tactic that people have been crying out loud for the manager to deploy. The tactical change saw the return of fan favourite Ander Herrera, who simply looked shy of match fitness. Another change that led to the downfall is Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s position.

The player has thrived up until now when played through the middle. The change to 4-3-3 saw the Armenian slide to the right, a change that saw the wing being emptied and the middle heavily clogged as Henrikh almost always cut in inside. The tactical change was the right idea but perhaps, the personnel chosen was the reason it could not come to fruition in a positive way.

The Game of Goalkeepers

It isn’t too much of a stretch to say that Manchester United and Stoke City boast two of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League. And on Saturday, their abilities were on full display as both Jack Butland and David De Gea pulled off important saves to deny their respective opposition.

Jack Butland’s performance, though, must put a seed of doubt into Gareth Southgate’s mind. The England manager has so far kept Joe Hart as the first-choice, despite his terrible for at club level. Butland, though, could soon see majority of the fans rally behind him to become the new number one for the Three Lions.

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