Chicharito at the far post and the Mexican could only head back into the middle for Stoke to clear, Berbatov was evidently incensed. At the other end, Rory Delap slashed a long-range effort wide after van der Sar had left his net gaping with a poor kick from close to his right-hand corner flag.
Talk before the game was about how United’s defence, yet to keep a clean sheet in a league away match this season, would handle Stoke’s aerial bombardment from Delap’s infamous throws and the deliveries from wingers Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington. How ironic, then, that a corner should find the Potters floundering in their own box for Chicharito’s breakthrough goal on 27 minutes. From the set-piece, Nani played a one-two with Patrice Evra and crossed to the far post, the majestic Nemanja Vidic won the aerial battle to nod the ball back into the mixer, and Chicharito – the smallest man on the park – beat Sorensen with a sweet back-header.
Chicharito almost bagged a cheeky second when Faye sold his keeper slightly short with an under-hit backpass, and as Sorensen cleared, the ball cannoned back off the Mexican but cleared the crossbar. Another effort went over the top when Evra met Nani’s corner.
The Reds looked more likely to score again than concede as the first half drew to a close but there was controversy when Neville scythed down Stoke winger Matthew Etherington only moments after being booked for a foul on the same player. Boos rang out around the Britannia as referee