He’s done it! It wasn’t with his shin, it wasn’t with his knee or some sort of deflection. Wayne Rooney left those to Juan Mata’s own goal as he put away one of his best goals as a Manchester United player and his 250th overall as a wonderfully struck free kick saved his club’s blushes as they stumbled to a 1-1 draw with Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Wasting chances and Mata’s aforementioned own goal were the tale once again as United cost themselves another two points to add to the season’s missed chances, as Liverpool’s defeat and the later Tottenham visit to Manchester City were not taken advantage of. The team remains in sixth and despite their progress they continue to miss chances to win games against teams they should be beating.

Come season’s end, it is looking like it’ll be costly.

Rooney Rooney Rooney

He’s finally done it. There was a wait this season for the goals to come, but January 21st 2017 was the day as Rooney rifled home a superb set piece. Despite his harsh decline over the past few seasons, he’s broken Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time leading mark, etching himself further into history.

Well done and congratulations Wayne, there was no better way to do it.

Smalling’s Decline Becomes A Worry

Chris Smalling rose to prominence under Louis Van Gaal, in a defensive style of football that provided protection for him and his fellow defenders. He was a key option under Van Gaal and his 2015 was a career year.

Under Jose Mourinho, he is a different player. Whilst the strengths of others have come to the fore, it is the Englishman’s weaknesses that have again become prominent like they were earlier in his Old Trafford career. His average to low football intelligence and positioning were shown again as his lack of closeout to help Juan Mata led to the deflection that was the opening goal for the Potters.

Smalling had a decision to either come out and block the cross by closing out, or step back in to cover deeper. He did neither, and it was a poor day overall. Mourinho has a decision to make now of his own, because the Englishman is now at fault for the last six goals conceded when he was on the pitch (four vs Chelsea, one vs Middlesbrough and yesterday’s vs Stoke).


Mark Clattenburg is a bad, bad referee. Like most seemingly deployed by the FA, he is more concerned with his own reputation, celebrity status and name than what truly matters. Celebrity referees is a problem in the Premier League, where they become known for their flamboyant behaviour or in this case, bad decision making.

A blatant shirt front or clothesline (whatever slang you prefer) was performed right in front of Clattenburg, and he failed to make a decision on it. The confusion around this is growing, as United still have been awarded only one penalty this season, amongst 68 others given to opposing sides.

Charlie Adam was allowed to treat United players like rag dolls, and Shawcross not only cleaned up Rashford he used his arms to control a cross. At least Clattenburg’s celebrity status is growing though, right?

Mata Misses His Chance

Juan Mata was granted a start with the first XI in a crucial away fixture, as one of the club’s most important players was given his chance to try and cement a birth in Jose Mourinho’s go-to team. He struggled to find any flow in the game though, as Stoke’s defensive set up didn’t suit the Spaniard and he had a bad day at the office.

Summed up by the chance he missed about a half hour into a game, Mata missed an open net when Zlatan Ibrahimovic delivered a goal on a platter. The Swede also had a tough day, not making the best decisions in attack and was ultimately wasteful.

Mata’s chance defined the game though, and it absolutely should of been a goal. It was well before half time, and gave United another hour to seek a second goal. Chances are, it’ll cost Mata his place in the XI for now.

Assigning Blame To The Right Place

Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho have been unfair targets of criticism in United’s poorer moments and that is wrong. Pogba was good on Saturday, and his driving of the ball from defence and into attack was vital to United’s attack (and continues to be) whilst his passing created chances for his teammates, like Mata’s missed opportunity as Pogba put a perfect ball over for Ibrahimovic to begin the move.

Mourinho meanwhile is copping criticism on behalf of his players. His selections in XI and substitutions have been close to spot on, but it is his players letting him down. Smalling and Mata were the ones on Saturday, causing the goals conceded and not scored. Ibrahimovic is to blame too, as he made poor decisions.

It isn’t fair to keep targeting the biggest names when they are doing their part. Look closer and find who is responsible.

Manchester United will now move onto their second leg EFL Cup Semi Final with Hull City, and will need a strong response to a poor result in the league. The undefeated streak continues of course, but it means little when there’s less than satisfactory results mixed into it.