First it was Herrera presented with a virtually open goal, then Fellaini casually tried to place it past Begovic, then Wilson failed the easy part after doing all the hard work, then Fellaini replicated Herrera's earlier effort when all he had to do was hit the target......it goes on and on. As the clock ticked towards the 90 minute, you got the sinking feeling that Stoke were going to grab a second equaliser. And credit to them. They kept having a go at United despite being under constant threat of conceeding a two goal deficit. Against any other goalkeeper in the league, they would have got their leveller. Thankfully though, we have just about the only stopper in the league with points saving reflexes of that quality. Amazingly though it was not De Gea that got the loudest cheer from me on the night. Ashley Young did.
If for any ludicrous reason FIFA decide to suddenly come up with a golden foot award this season, Ashley Young should be a top three nominee if only because his foot was ultimately the difference between us collecting three points last night and just the one. He's nobody's cup of tea but last night, he applied himself well in the game. I lost count of how many times he beat two Stoke defenders by cutting in and skipping past challenges. He's emerged as a capable emergency left back in the same way Valencia has ably deputised for Rafael. If we're talking about players who have upped their game under the new manager, he's one. He's come in against Arsenal, Hull and Stoke and not once have we complained that we miss Luke Shaw. This is not to suggest that he's set the world alight in that role. It is rather an acknowledgement of the mitigating role Young has done on the left side of defence.
Juan Mata had his second brilliant game in two days and was worth the standing ovation he received at the end. His link up play with Carrick and Herrera has made it easy for the otherwise slow Fellaini to pick a pass as they make themselves available. Alongside Fellaini, they're on a mission to improve United's goal scoring record from midfield. It's been a while since we had a high scoring midfield. It's increasingly becoming less worrying when our forwards do not score.
And while we're at it, James Wilson, besides his poor finish after a great run, impressed. He seems blessed with decent pace for a striker and can beat a man easily. If he can keep his head down, he could be quite something at the club. His presence though was a testament of the injuries that United have at the moment. Wayne Rooney faces a race against time to male it on Monday whilst the manager seems to have ruled out Angel Di Maria for that one as well. More than anything, it is the fact that the manager has galvanised the players to work around the injury crisis that jas filled Old Trafford with optimism lately. It goes without saying that Louis van Gaal has finally got his team. This is no longer aside reeling from the loss of Sir Alex Ferguson or a side smarting from the confidence sapping team talks of David Moyes.
In the end, 6 points from the two home games was the minimum requirement and we've achieved that. It's pleasing that we've now put ourselves at within a point of Southampton ahead of our meeting next week. Subject to their result against Arsenal tonight, we could be third by bedtime on Monday. That though is a permutation for next MatchDay. For now United can bask in a run of consistency that has seen them amass 12 points out of the last 12 on offer.
It is just as well then that the Manchester United Christmas Party is tonight. I take it then that nobody will still be hungover on Monday evening.