Choupo-Moting inspires as Potters hold league-leaders...
Stoke City 2 (Choupo-Moting 43, 63)
Manchester United 2 (Rashford 45+1, Lukaku 57)
MAXIM CHOUPO-MOTING introduced himself to the Premier League stage in quite scintillating fashion as he netted a superbly taken brace to help halt Manchester United’s faultless start to the campaign.
The Cameroon international, who joined the Potters on a free transfer from Schalke 04 during the summer, shone in front of the live television cameras as he and his teammates claimed a thoroughly deserved point against Jose Mourinho’s men.
Despite coming into the fixture as heavy favourites, on the back of three immaculate triumphs over West Ham United, Swansea City and Leicester City, it was the hosts who drew first blood two minutes before the interval.
Some slick interchange between the impeccable Darren Fletcher and Mame Diouf culminated in the latter delivering an inch-perfect cross into the path of Choupo-Moting, who emphatically thumped home from six-yards.
No sooner had the home supporters managed to catch their breaths though, the visitors were back on level terms - and in slightly dubious circumstances too!
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s in-swinging corner was powerfully met by Paul Pogba, who watched on with delight as his effort flicked off the head of England international Marcus Rashford, who initially appeared to have been in an offside position.
Following some firm Potters resistance, and a short debate with the linesman on the nearside, the goal was given, correctly in truth, and the game was well and truly back on a knife-edge.
The home side started the game far brighter than their more illustrious opposition, with Jese and Choupo-Moting both testing the waters, and they got the second half underway in equally as impressive fashion too.
Choupo-Moting cut a real imposing figure throughout proceedings, as did Xherdan Shaqiri, who showed real intelligence and quality on the ball as they looked to extend their unbeaten league run on home soil against the Red Devils to six.
Joe Allen, who produced another tireless display in midfield, hit a powerful effort wide of the target from distance, whilst Shaqiri’s teasing corner very nearly fell for Mame Diouf, who looked primed to prod home from close range before Eric Bailly’s crucial intervention.
As the half wore on, United began to rediscover the same swagger they had shown in each of their previous three league outings.
Mkhitaryan, who had assisted five goals since the season-opener last month, was very nearly the architect to another as he clipped a sensational ball across the six-yard box to Lukaku, only for Jack Butland to produce a fine save to deny him.
A few minutes later, the Belgian striker did manage to get the better of the England international however, although only then, it came at the second attempt after the 24-year-old spread himself tremendously to block United’s leading scorer’s initial effort.
At 2-1, you thought the visitors were going to run away with it, but Hughes’ passion on the sideline was epitomised by him players, who continued to produce an almighty shift in order to keep the visitors within arm’s reach.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, that opportunity the home side were crying out for presented itself… Pieters flashed a stunning ball across the penalty area, Jese made firm contact, and just as he wheeled off in celebration, David De Gea produced a save of the season contender.
It wasn’t over there though… not by any stretch, for Shaqiri floated in another idyllic ball which was met by the powerful Choupo-Moting, who managed to ripple the back of the net with a pin-point header to send the home supporters into delirium.
Still there were 15 minutes left, and one final opportunity perhaps for either side to secure maximum spoils.
Choupo-Moting attempted an audacious effort, and why not given his undoubted influence on proceedings, which flew over the bar from distance, whilst United’s best chance of prolonging their winning start to the campaign fell to Phil Jones, whose late header was outstandingly finger-tipped away from goal by Butland.