It seemed that the 21-year-old couldn’t have had a harder Premier League debut but he had very little to do as Stoke offered little in attack. He wasn’t called into action at all in the first half but looked good on the ball and distributed it neatly to his defenders when required.
He may be a centre-back by trade but he continues to impress at right-back, although he was hardly tested by Walters during this game. In fact, Smalling found himself pushing the Stoke man back as he had more of an attacking role than usual, when he was called upon in a defensive capacity he was strong and calm.
Cool, calm and collected as ever and he dealt with the threat of Crouch superbly, although the Stoke man was so isolated at times it wasn't too tough for Ferdinand. On the ball he never looked like he was going to give the ball away and his presence seemed to help the other defenders lift their games.
With Stoke’s lack of attacking play the defender had a relatively easy game and spent a lot of time supporting United’s attacking play.
Had the liveliest of Stoke’s attacking players to mark in Pennant but he was in complete control against the winger, using all his experience to dispossess him when he got too close to the penalty area. He didn’t look as comfortable in attacking positions as other players in red but his support to Park enabled United to threaten down both flanks.
The South Korean is a real workaholic in the midfield and although he was stationed on the left side he continually popped up all over the place as he tried to unlock a resolute Stoke defence. He showed neat touches and linked up well with Evra ,down the left, and Berbatov in front of him.
The winger was full of energy and confidence after his recent good performances and he excelled again tormenting Wilson in the Stoke defence. He looked to take his man on whenever he could but his delivery lacked accuracy at times.
The old master continued to orchestrate the game with an excellent performance in the middle of the park. His passing was well-thought and incisive when it needed to be, and on another night he could have had a goal but his early shot was just wide.
Alongside Scholes he controlled the midfield and really made Palacios and Whitehead chase shadows at times. Going forward he was dangerous with lots of neat balls inside defenders to cause trouble, but he lacked accuracy in front of goal on a couple of occasions.
Does the Bulgarian ever break a sweat? Well he may not have done in this game but his play was excellent as he linked up midfield and attack with effortless ease. He combined with Hernandez well as the two forwards seemed to be on the same wavelength. He took his penalty well, placing it just out of Sorensen’s reach.
The striker looked keen to make the most of a rare start and his constant running kept the Stoke defence on their toes throughout the game. He didn’t have many sights of goal but when he was presented with the penalty he cooly fired beyond Sorensen.
The Stoke keeper didn’t have too many shots to save but when he was called into action he made sure he was equal to everything that was fired at him. He had no chance with either penalty although he got very close to denying Berbatov for United’s second goal.
The former United defender was never caught out by the Red Devils' attack but there were a couple of occasions when he was unable to stop a flowing passing move leading to half a chance for the home side. He stayed close to Berbatov and Hernandez but the strikers linked so well it was a real challenge at times.
Valencia caused him all kinds of problems down the right with his pace and trickery and the full-back struggled to stay with the winger. His distribution was forced to be quite direct and a lot of his long balls forward were impossible for Crouch to work with.
The defender began the game strongly and was able to keep Park under control but the constant pressure from United sometimes meant he was having to deal with the Korean and Evra which made his task even harder.
Like Shawcross he was never embarrassed but he had a busy evening heading and clearing balls out of his penalty area as the home side laid siege to the Stoke goal. In the air he was commanding and rarely let Berbatov win anything.
Like Whitehead he covered a lot of ground for his team without much reward, although when he was able to get on the ball he looked good and began the best of Stoke’s rare forays forward.
A tough evening in the middle of the pitch for the midfielder as Carrick and Scholes passed the ball to their heart's content. He worked hard to close down the space but it will have been an energy-sapping night for the Stoke man.
He was Stoke’s attacking threat in the game but his final ball lacked quality and that meant Evra was able to keep him under control easily. He was at fault for the opening goal as his poor tackle on Park saw the home side awarded a penalty which Hernandez scored.
Playing as more of a support man he struggled to make an impact on the game as he often found himself in the middle of the pitch where he was less likely to make a difference. He had one early chance but he fired a volley wide from 20 yards without testing Amos.
He tried his heart out for his side, looked to break on the counter-attack whenever he could and support his defenders as much as possible but it was often in vain as Stoke struggled. He was unlucky to have a penalty awarded against him for his tangle with Valencia but he shouldn’t have put his hand on the Ecuadorian to give him the chance to fall.
A tough night for the striker, he was playing on his own up front and he hardly had a kick as United dominated. When he did get on the ball the lack of support meant he had to try and do it all on his own but that was a battle he was never going to win.
- 1 A. Begović
- 39 J. Woodgate
- 6 G. Whelan
- 26 M. Etherington
Replaced Palacios in the 75th minute but had little impact.
Replaced Crouch in the 57th minute and had Stoke’s best chance in the 63rd minute when he rose above Evans but his header was easily saved by Amos.
Replaced Walter after 75 minutes and worked hard but could not find a way through.