Goals from Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic inflicted a Boxing Day defeat on Manchester United, meaning the Reds are now without a win in seven matches across all competitions.
Louis van Gaal described the fixture at the Britannia Stadium as a must-win ahead of kick-off but the Reds were disappointingly outplayed by a flourishing Potters team managed by Mark Hughes, the former United striker whose second season at the Britannia Stadium is going from strength-to-strength.
Wayne Rooney spoke admirably about galvanising the squad on Friday and admitted this match could become a defining moment in the season, yet the captain watched the first half from the substitute’s bench after Louis van Gaal started Ander Herrera ahead of the captain for “tactical reasons”. The Spaniard registered the first shot at goal, too, with a 20-yard drive that was saved by Jack Butland.
In typically windy conditions, with strong gales blowing through the exposed corners of the stadium, the opening exchanges were scrappy and the weather played a small part in Stoke taking the lead on 19 minutes. Memphis, faced by a bouncing ball, tried to head back to David De Gea but failed to must enough power, allowing Glen Johnson to intercept and set up Bojan for a simple finish from inside the box.