Both sides struggled to deal with the blustery conditions early on, and United were forced into a change after just 10 minutes when Rafael replaced the limping Jonny Evans. United, with the wind at their backs in the first half, had the majority of possession but rarely threatened the Stoke goal, while the hosts were reduced to long-range shots that failed to hit the target.
But just as the Reds looked to be gaining control, they fell behind in unlucky circumstances when Adam’s long-range free kick took a deflection off Michael Carrick’s right knee to send the ball to David De Gea’s right when the keeper looked to have it covered.
To make matters worse, the back four was rejigged again before the break when Phil Jones was carried off on a stretcher following a blow to the head, but after a welcome respite at half-time, United were soon back on level terms. Juan Mata’s deft touch gave van Persie the time and space to place the ball past Asmir Begovic for the equaliser, but Adam’s fierce half-volley five minutes later put the home side back into the lead.
United struggled to force their way back against their fired-up hosts until the closing stages, with their best chance a Wayne Rooney free-kick that Begovic brilliantly turned onto the post. Tom Cleverley blazed the ball over following the ensuing melee, before the final whistle ensured the Reds were beaten at Britannia Stadium for the first time.