It was a second-half performance much reminiscent, although only in parts, to the dreaded Louis van Gaal era as Manchester United appeared to have been saved by Anthony Martial before conceding an equaliser from a poor mistake.
Stoke City will be delighted with a point at Old Trafford, and must be thankful for the first half heroics of goalkeeper Lee Grant, standing in for the sidelined Jack Butland. The pressure is eased on former-Red Mark Hughes, the Stokes manager name chanted by the traveling Potters' fans as the game came to a close.
Lee Grant keeps Stoke from battering
United were sublime in the opening stages of the lunchtime kick-off, playing with confidence and quality. Chances fell to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Juan Mata. No one, however, could beat Grant.
Even with that failure to score, and chances for Stoke at the other end, Jose Mourinho's decision to name an unchanged line-up from last weekend's 4-1 victory against champions Leicester City appeared to be vindicated at half-time. The performance after the break, and the resurgence of Stoke, did not befit praise, though, and United looked as unable to create chances as ever before.
That was, of course, until the introduction of Anthony Martial, scoring three minutes after arriving on the Old Trafford pitch, curling an effort into the top right corner of Grant's net. Joe Allen, one of the only positives of this woeful start to the season for Stoke, graciously netted a tap-in only 13 minutes later after a poor parry from David de Gea allowed the ball to fall to the Welshman in front of an open net.
A succession of corners allowed United chances to regain their lead late on, but as it appeared at times in the first half when Grant denied them at every opportunity, it was not their day. Paul Pogba hit the crossbar with a powerful header and bringing on Memphis Depay immediately after Stoke's equaliser could not produce a winner.
United entertaining in opening stages, but fail to take chances
Mourinho's side had begun the game in such entertaining style, which he'll hope will be the focus for this draw in a game they should have won with ease, not drawn with difficulty. The intentions were clear from kick-off, a through ball fed into the penalty area immediately. Only a minute later, Ibrahimovic should have had his 5th league goal of the season after wonderful footwork and vision from Pogba. Like an eagle circling to find its prey, Pogba moved across the edge of the penalty area, surveying the options. He jinked past a tackle before feeding Ibrahimovic into huge amounts of space, just staying onside. He attempted to fool Lee Grant by shooting at his near post, but the Stoke goalkeeper, as he did throughout the match, read his opposition and pulled off a magnificent save.
The best chance of the match, perhaps, fell to Pogba himself. After losing the ball, the tenacity of Ander Herrera saw him poke it back into his side's possession, Lingard chasing it down. He cut back inside, passed it to Zlatan who backheeled it tremendously to Mata, squaring it to Pogba in space, who shot wide of Grant's right post. It could have been 2-0 before Stoke had settled into the game yet, but United were not clinical enough. Stoke had been in a similar situation moments earlier, despite having only 20% of the possession. Allen broke free on the right flank before cutting back to Bony. An airkick for the Stoke striker, having another unsuccessful game, allowed it to fall to Geoff Cameron. His shot, however, was straight at De Gea and saved.
Mata attempted to chip Grant and almost succeeded, having been able to hold onto the ball in the penalty area with the close-control that very few players have. The Stoke stand-in 'keeper tipped it above his crossbar, though, and handed United another opportunity, from a corner. Pogba had his second golden opportunity of the game, heading wide despite being unmarked in the Stoke penalty area.
The chances continued to come for Mourinho's Reds as Zlatan held up the ball superbly before crossing with the same quality, with the outside-of-the-boot. Jesse Lingard's excellent movement saw him squeeze between two Stoke defenders but as his teammates had been earlier, he was denied by Grant. Zlatan himself saw a shot from close range denied by Shawcross and then Grant. More chances came, and should have been converted, but Stoke came out in a different style to completely change the game. The Potters' talent, which has rarely shown itself in the first games of the season, came out as they created a narrower game to allow quick interchange between their best players.
Meanwhile, United were resorting to searching balls to Ibrahimovic and more successful to the quick Rashford and Lingard. Stoke's best chance came as Shaqiri, Allen, and Arnautovic all played within a ten-metre width of the pitch. Allen received the ball in the box after a one-two from his teammates but couldn't get enough power on his close-range curling shot to beat De Gea.
Mourinho will have been unhappy to see free-kicks given away with far too much ease, one such being a potential red-card challenge from Herrera on Allen that saw the United man get a controversial booking. Unlike in the first half, saves for Lee Grant were comfortable, catching long-range shots from Pogba and Mata. Herrera had a low drive fizz past Grant's right post after excellent combination hold-up play from Lingard and Ibrahimovic. Zlatan had a similar shot go past Grant's opposite post, his teammates providing him with no options and leaving him with only option, to shoot.
Martial nets three minutes after coming on
The introduction of Rooney and Martial on 67 minutes worked, though. As the team selection appeared to be correct at half-time, these substitutes were vindicated within three minutes as Martial fired the ball into Rooney in the box, his touch and anticipation of a man coming behind him poor. Fortunately for Martial, it fell to the Frenchman and he curled it superbly past Grant, nestling in the top right corner and bringing back a smile to Martial, a gamechanger for the first time this season, for the first time in a while.
Allen taps home for Stoke equaliser
Peter Crouch and Jon Walters came on for an injured Arnautovic and the struggling Wilfried Bony, and as Mourinho's changes had worked earlier, Hughes' substitutes paid off. De Gea parried a spinning deflected long shot wide of his goal, but not with enough power and the Stoke players swarmed, including Crouch. The ball, though, came back across the open goal, and Allen tapped it home with ease.
United had more chances, and as they should have converted chances in the first half, they should have got a winner. Pogba shouldered a shot into the middle of the crossbar from a powerful, excellent cross from Rashford. A header could have seen a dramatic winner for the Reds. It's most definitely two points lost for Mourinho's United side, who are now sixth in the Premier League. As the Portuguese said after the game, United could have been three goals up at half-time, and six or seven at full-time, but ended up with a singular point and singular goal.