Manchester United were held by Stoke in a 2-2 draw that saw Jose Mourinho’s side drop points for the first time this season.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was at the double for the home side while Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku grabbed a goal apiece for the visitors.
United now sit top of the table on 10 points alongside rivals City.
Here’s five things we learned from Saturday’s game:
United handed their first real test
Jose Mourinho had said earlier in the week that he was eager to see how his players would react to more “difficult moments” – and it certainly seems he was granted his wish today after a resilient Stoke side pushed United all the way at the Britannia Stadium.
The home side set up to frustrate their opposition from the start with a well-organised system that sustained United’s forward attack, for much of the match, and countered effectively on the break. As a result, Mourinho’s men found it harder than usual to break their opponents and were subject to a number of scares that could have handed Stoke victory.
Lukaku looked to have clinched victory in the second half but Choupo-Moting’s equaliser confirmed that United can be stopped in their tracks. Mourinho will be particularly disappointed by his side’s defensive performance which was found wanting today.
Hughes deserves credit for a good transfer window
Stoke endured a horrible run towards the end of last season, winning just one match from their final five games. With this in mind, the club made sure to make the most of the summer transfer window and, on the face of their term so far, have recruited wisely.
Kurt Zouma looks an accomplished signing at the back and put in an impressive, rounded performance against United tonight. Elsewhere, as Arsenal fans can attest, Jese looks a very promising prospect. The Spanish forward is fast, lively and a constant menace for defenders who would like more time on the ball. His hard running and incessant press kept the visitors’ backline busy all game long.
Stoke’s players celebrate their opener (Getty)
New signing Choupo-Moting also proved his worth, hitting home a well-taken opener that put Stoke on the front foot before securing the equaliser that saw the spoils shared. On paper, Stoke are a strong side and they proved just that today.
Butland should be given a chance in England’s No 1 shirt
The Stoke stopper did his reputation no harm on a day when one of his rivals for England’s No 1 shirt conceded three at home.
While Everton were perhaps thankful to Jordan Pickford that they did not lose by a few more against a rampant Tottenham, Butland will surely have caught Gareth Southgate’s eye having restricted the Premier League’s top scorers to just two goals.
Butland made a strong save from Rashford early on in the first-half, diving low to his left and deflecting the ball wide with his fingertips, before pulling off a crucial block in the dying minutes of injury time.
Butland celebrates Stoke’s second goal (Getty)
As well as his ability to keep the ball out of his own net, one of the other departments in which Butland excels over England’s incumbent goalkeeper is his distribution, exemplified by a fizzing through ball that put the lively Jese in on goal.
More performances like today’s and the 24-year-old can feel rightly aggrieved if he is not given a proper chance between the sticks by the Three Lions before next summer’s World Cup.
United are still short of a left-back
Jose Mourinho has spent a few hundred million pounds since moving to Old Trafford last summer, transforming United’s thin squad into one of the league’s strongest.
But with the Portuguese manager clearly not fancying Luke Shaw as a first-team starter it seems baffling that he hasn’t invested in a top quality left-back.
Matteo Darmian started at the Bet365 on Saturday but as good a defender as he is, he does look out of place on the left.
This was highlighted early on as he found himself too square as the ball flew over his head to Jese and later on in the attacking half as he was forced to cut in onto his right foot in order to cross the ball, stymying United’s attack.
Lukaku’s rough-and-ready approach what Mourinho needs
For all his records in front of goal, Romelu Lukaku has never been known for the spectacular – as his goal proved today. Timing his run to perfection to meet Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s reverse pass, the Belgian saw his first attempt saved but followed it up to ensure he found the back of the net.
Romelu Lukaku looks to take a shot on goal (Getty)
The Belgian has repeatedly proven his worth as a forward over the years but compared to some of his rivals, the nature of his game has always been defined by a rough-and-ready approach that has been effective but far from pretty. For a man like Mourinho, who places like emphasis on aesthetics, this won’t matter in the slightest. The Portuguese has made it clear that he cares little for the manner of a victory; all that counts is the three points. That may not have been the case today but Lukaku certainly did his part for the side in snatching a vital goal.