Somehow Manchester United have managed not just to score multiple (i repeat, multiple) goals in the first half of a home game, but they also managed to beat Stoke City – something that, on the back of the form of both teams over the last few months – didn’t look like the predicted result.
It’s the depressing state of reality at the minute, Manchester United aren’t even favourites to beat Stoke City at home.
But it was about more than just form. It was about the state of the club, too.
Louis van Gaal brought his team to Old Trafford to play Stoke only one day after the transfer window slammed shut™. That means that he played Stoke only one day after the Potters added a record transfer new signing to their team, and only one day after Manchester United officially lost out in the race to seal the signature of Pep Guardiola.
Some things are obvious when it comes to the decline of United, other things are soothed by beating Stoke so comfortably. Here are five things we’ve learned about Manchester United v Stoke City.
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) February 2, 2016
Does it really matter if they beat Stoke 3-0? Would it really have mattered if they’d beaten them 10-0 tonight? The fact of the matter is that United caused a huge furore just by scoring a goal in the first half of a home game. No other United team would have had such a reaction to scoring a goal in a home match. These are sad times for such a big club, and whatever the result was tonight, it wasn’t going to change that.
Manchester United are 2 up. Their first first half goals at Old Trafford since September. #Peptalk
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 2, 2016
If United are a team in decline, only a manager like Louis Van Gaal would ever want to take the reins of the club.
It’s clear that taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson was going to be an impossible job, but what wasn’t so clear up until now was that even the second man to take the position would have had a tough job, too. The shadow of Fergie still looms large over United, and it will take the club to fully move on, to win trophies and to gain some sort of post-Fergie era identity before they can compete at the top level once again.
They’ve broken their transfer record twice this season, and they just keep charming us with their distinctly un-Stoke like style of play. But tonight has surely proven that Stoke aren’t quite there yet.
Although any team with players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic will always pose a threat to any opposition, going away to a floundering Manchester United was a chance to show that they possessed the right sort of ruthlessness needed to be a top team. Though surely they’re not a million miles away.
It’s hard to plot the progression of a young player when he’s surrounded by so much on-pitch mediocrity and so much off-pitch failure, but Anthony Martial is surely the biggest bright spot for Manchester United so far this season at least.
The young Frenchman may have arrived at Old Trafford for a lot of money, and he may not always have looked like a man who could justify that price tag, but he has always shown that he has ability, and tonight’s goal was a beauty.
— Full Time DEVILS (@FullTimeDEVILS) February 2, 2016
It has always been known that Manchester United fans just wanted to see a bit of entertainment and a bit of attacking play from their team, but tonight’s good performance, replete with three real-life goals for the Red Devils, gave their fans something to smile about at least.
It may not show that they’re on the mend, it may not show that they’re on the right track and it may not show that United can ever get back into the top four ever again, but it does show that entertainment is really all that is asked for at Old Trafford at the minute. If the team continues to play like that, they may forget all about the ineptitude of the board and the rocky ground that the club is heading for. At least for a few weeks!