x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Ronaldo inspires five-star United

Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo led a five goal charge against Stoke City as the Red Devils move to third in the table.

Midfielder Michael Carrick fires home United's second in their five goal rout of Stoke City.
Midfielder Michael Carrick fires home United's second in their five goal rout of Stoke City.

MANCHESTER // A powerful free-kick from Cristiano Ronaldo just three minutes into this match set Manchester United up for a comfortable win, moving them above Arsenal in the table. Having been put through their paces in the 4-3 win over Hull City, United did not underestimate Stoke - who had also been promoted from the Championship in the summer. But they had little to worry about, as Amdy Faye conceded a free-kick after sliding in on Carlos Tevez after just three minutes.

It offered Ronaldo just the opportunity he craved as he struck a blistering shot that moved in the air. The deviation was too much for Thomas Sorensen who let it through his hands and into the net, and Ronaldo raced away to celebrate his 100th United goal. He was denied a second when Faye got in the way of another piledriver, conceding a corner which eventually arrived at Ji-Sung Park's feet. The South Korean went for goal as well but Sorensen got behind his low drive.

Rory Delap - whose long throws have caused havoc this season - wound himself up and launched the ball to the near post, where John O'Shea could only flick it goalwards. For a brief moment Stoke thought they had scored but Edwin van der Sar managed to claw it out. Although Sir Alex Ferguson laughed it off when it was mentioned pre-match, a steep slope around the pitch about two feet from the touchline meant Delap could not get as much momentum behind his throws

Delap was fortunate to get away with stopping O'Shea's intended pass to Tevez with his hand just outside the Stoke box, then Ronaldo let fly with another long-range effort which Sorensen managed to smother. Ronaldo was unhappy with some of the treatment he was receiving from the Stoke players and sarcastically applauded Danny Higginbotham after the full-back had gone down under his challenge inside the United box.

United grabbed a second in stoppage time as Ronaldo fed Carrick, who fired home through a crowd of bodies from 10 yards. Berbatov made it three when he shot on the turn from six yards after collecting a pass from Tevez. Ferguson took advantage of a quiet day be handing the youngsters Darron Gibson and Danny Welbeck their debuts. And Wellbeck, 17, made his a day to remember when he smashed the ball into a top corner from 25 yards.

And there was still time for United to beat Sorensen again. It was Ronaldo, once more with a free-kick, to end the game as he had started it - the star of the show. * PA Sport