x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Better late than never from Tevez

Carlos Tevez sends a timely reminder to Manchester United of his worth with a winner to keep his side among the frontrunners.

Manchester United's Carlos Tevez, centre, scores the only goal of the game at Stoke.
Manchester United's Carlos Tevez, centre, scores the only goal of the game at Stoke.

STOKE // Carlos Tevez has endured a frustrating season at Manchester United, with a bit-part role and his future still not resolved. But the on-loan Argentine striker sent a timely reminder to Manchester United of his worth with a winner to keep his side among the frontrunners.

Sir Alex Ferguson feared dropped points as Stoke snapped and scrapped against his newly-crowned, but below-par, Club World Cup winners. Tevez came to the rescue in the 83rd minute, after Andy Wilkinson had been sent off for the home side, when he bundled home his second league goal of the season. Ferguson had been about to take Tevez off, and was pleased to see the forward score the winning goal. "He scores important goals and came up trumps again," said Ferguson. "It was a difficult game. Sometimes you have to be patient.

"At this stage of the season they are all big wins. We were worried how the trip to Japan [for the Club World Cup] would affect them, but I thought they showed great energy." The last time the two sides met in the league was on the same day in 1984, when the Potters claimed a 2-1 victory. They wanted a repeat and, as this season has shown, reputations mean nothing to them. World champions, European champions, European Footballer of the Year: so what?

Stoke are fighting to save their top flight status and Ricardo Fuller summed them up, a heavyweight in attack, constantly jabbing at the United defence with bulldozing runs. He had the first chance when Jonny Evans - a late replacement for Rio Ferdinand, who is out for around 10 days with a back injury - dithered and allowed the striker to sneak in behind and send a shot over. Fuller continued to forage, but his best sight of goal came in the 57th minute when he brought a diving save from Edwin van der Sar. Danny Pugh, a former United trainee, then sent a header on to the top of the net and Van der Sar blocked Rory Delap as Stoke had their best spell in a bruising encounter.

It followed a great chance for United when Paul Scholes, starting a league game for the first time in three months after a knee injury, drilled a low 20-yard shot that Thomas Sorensen kept out superbly. The dismissal of Wilkinson sent Stoke into retreat and eventual surrender. Already booked, the defender sent Cristiano Ronaldo crumpling to the ground with a challenge from behind. How Tevez made him pay. Gary Neville started the move and delivered the ball into the area where Dimitar Berbatov controlled it with ease and crossed for Tevez to turn the ball home.

On a ground where their rivals Arsenal were beaten and Liverpool could only draw after coming up against similar Stoke defiance, United got the valuable three points to keep their title challenge on track. akhan@thenational.ae