Can Phil Jones ever be truly trusted and other talking points from Man United's 2-2 draw at Stoke

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Buitland's the boy: Jack Butland keeps Stoke in the match (Getty).

Manchester United’s perfect start to the Premier League season is over after a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Stoke City.

In Saturday’s rollercoaster match at bet365 Stadium, Cameroon forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was twice a thorn in the Red Devils’ side.

He first supplied the close-range finish for a fine team move to open the scoring, before his header levelled things up after Marcus Rashford fortuitously made it 1-1 and Romelu Lukaku put the visitors ahead at the second time asking.

Here, we look through the major talking points from a Red Devils-perspective after this engaging clash.

THE DRAW DISEASE REAPPEARS

The only table Manchester United topped last term was for most stalemates, where they registered a momentum-sapping 15.

Worries about a return to such frustrating form must now be on manager Jose Mourinho’s mind. His side racked up 18 attempts on the impressive Jack Butland’s goal, with Belgium centre forward Lukaku particularly guilty of one glaring miss when he shot over with the score at 2-2.

Thankfully for Mourinho’s mental health, his side did manage to get on the score sheet twice – unlike in last October’s goalless home draw against Burnley when a colossal 39 attempts went to waste.

But the signs are present that the slip-up at Stoke will turn into an anomaly.

Armenia playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan moved onto six Premier League assists with a sublime pass for Lukaku, more than anyone registered for United in the whole of last term in the Premier League. There is now also rapier pace throughout the attack in the absence of the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic, making the unit far less predictable.

Drink it in: Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho (Getty).

Drink it in: Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho (Getty).

CAN JONES EVER BE TRULY TRUSTED?

Phil Jones remains an enigma for Manchester United at centre-back.

A strong start to the season propelled the 25-year-old back into England’s starting side for a competitive international for the first time in nearly three years. Yet at Stoke, he appeared jittery and unsettled.

He collapsed with all the grace of a tranquilised giraffe for Choupo-Moting’s headed second. A pass-completion rate of 98.3 per cent might have led the way from both sides for starters, but with the vast majority of these being sideways he only contributed to a stodgy United performance.

United lack a figure at the back capable of both defending solidly and creating momentum with adventurous passing. Summer buy Victor Lindelof was brought in to be this man, with a positive performance against Basel in the Champions League on Tuesday a risk to Jones’ starting spot.

A Three Lion: Phil Jones for England (Getty).

A Three Lion: Phil Jones for England (Getty).

BUNDESLIGA’S TALENT TAP REMAINS SWITCHED ON

When Premier League clubs go shopping, there is one location which keeps coming up trumps.

Choupo-Moting looked a bargain for Stoke this weekend. Providing support for central striker Jese in Mark Hughes’ 3-4-2-1 formation, the free-transfer recruit consistently looked to punish any mistakes which appeared from the United defence.

This effervescent display saw him plunder two goals – the same as he notched up for Schalke in the German top flight in last season’s entirety.

At both ends of the market, the Bundesliga has shown an ability to produce value. Germany winger Leroy Sane also came off the bench to strike two goals of rare quality on Saturday in Manchester City’s 5-0 routing of Liverpool.

Stoke recruited versatile Senegal forward Mame Biram Diouf – curiously utilised at wing-back again by the Potters against ex-club United – after he shone for Hannover.

They will hope for similar returns from their latest addition.

German import: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrates for Stoke (Getty).

German import: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrates for Stoke (Getty).

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Seven deadly stats from Man United's draw at Stoke as Marcus Rashford closes in on a Red Devils record

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Manchester United’s perfect start to the season came to an end in a familiar way – points dropped against Stoke City.

The Premier League leaders haven’t won away to Stoke in six years, with Saturday’s 2-2 draw the latest result in that barren run.

United knew they were in for a difficult game and actually fell behind to an Eric Choupo-Moting goal, giving the side their first taste of adversity this season.

They responded well, equalising instantly through Marcus Rashford before Romelu Lukaku gave them the lead after halftime. But another Choupo-Moting strike and some resolute Stoke City defending denied the Red Devils the three points.

Here are seven deadly stats from the game:

UNITED’S IMPREGNABLE FORTRESS BREACHED

United were yet to concede in the league this season, cruising to 4-0 wins against West Ham and Swansea and a battling 2-0 victory over Leicester City. Phil Jones and Eric Bailly had both come in for praise during that start, but on Saturday the latter contributed to United’s defensive fortress finally being breached, first failing to push up to play for an offside and then getting beaten by Choupo-Moting. 

It was a special moment for the Cameroonian attacker, getting a first-ever goal for Stoke City, and he’d add to that account later in the match.

RASHFORD THE TEEN SENSATION

Marcus Rashford’s rise has been well-documented, from his stunning debut under Louis Van Gaal two seasons ago to his more measured but still impressive play last year as he added more facets to his game under Jose Mourinho. Through all that, the goals kept coming.

He knew very little about his goal on Saturday – if anything, he inadvertently denied teammate Paul Pogba, whose goalbound header went in off Rashford’s back. Nonetheless, it continues Rashford’s remarkable start to his career.

If Rashford can get four more league goals before his 20th birthday on October 31, he’ll set a new mark for the highest number of Premier League goals by a teenager for Manchester United.

UNITED’S NOT-SO-SOLID DEFENCE

Perhaps due to the international break disrupting their rhythm, the Manchester United defence did not look as solid as it had in the first three games of the league season.

Stoke City also deserve their fair share of credit, as the home attack put pressure on United’s defence that the Red Devils’ previous three opponents hadn’t, and it made for a sloppy first half for Mourinho’s back line.

LUKAKU’S STRONG START

It was almost a surprise when Lukaku didn’t score in United’s previous game – especially considering he took a penalty in that encounter against Leicester City.

As it stands, after his second-half goal on Saturday to give United a brief lead, that penalty miss is the only reason Lukaku hasn’t set a new mark for the most goals scored by a United player in his first four Premier League appearances for the club. He’ll have to be content with sharing that record.

STOKE FIND SCORING TOUCH…

Stoke City had shown their resilience in a 1-0 win over Arsenal earlier in the season, but even after that result and a subsequent 1-1 draw against West Brom, there were concerns regarding how deadly their attack could be.

Thanks to Choupo-Moting’s equaliser – his second goal of the day – those questions will be laid to rest, at least temporarily. Along with the Cameroonian, PSG loanee Jese is expected to be a reliable goalscorer and it’s only a matter of time before new signing Saido Berahino rediscovers his goalscoring form.

…AND REDISCOVER BIG-GAME PROWESS

Under Tony Pulis, Stoke City had come to be known as a team even the top sides would fear. That aura had begun to disappear, especially last year, when Tottenham (twice), Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City all put four past Mark Hughes’ side.

In all, Stoke managed two draws against Manchester United and one against City last season, with the other nine games against the top six all ending in defeat.

Thanks to their win against Arsenal in August and Saturday’s draw, the Potters have already begun righting that record this season.

MARK HUGHES, JOSE’S NEW NEMESIS

Speaking of Hughes, the Welshman is now enjoying a little run of success against Jose Mourinho.

The two even had a minor dust-up during Saturday’s game, with Hughes getting a warning for coming close to encroaching Mourinho’s technical area after attempting to keep the United manager from having a word with the referee.

There’s no doubting the source of Mourinho’s frustration, with his team failing to find a late winner despite their best efforts and thus dropping points for the first time this season. But perhaps his opposite number also had something to do with it.

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Liverpool's Sadio Mane apologises to Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson for ugly clash

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Sadio Mane apologised to Ederson after the Liverpool star was sent off for an ugly clash with the Manchester City goalkeeper on Saturday.

Senegal winger Mane was shown the red card after accidentally catching Ederson in the face with a high boot during City’s 5-0 win at Eastlands.

Ederson had raced out of his area to head clear a high bouncing ball when he was knocked to the ground.

He was carried off on a stretcher after receiving treatment on the field for around eight minutes.

“I hope and wish Ederson a quick recovery,” Mane wrote on his Facebook page after the match.

“I am so sorry he was hurt during our accidental collision on the pitch and am sorry for him that he could not complete the match because of it.

“I pray he heals fast and is back playing very soon!”

Former Benfica keeper Ederson was examined further by City’s medical staff but did not suffer concussion and returned to the bench, wearing a dressing, before the end of the game.

The Brazilian later tweeted: “Hi, everyone – I am well. What a fright!

“It was an important win for us. We are strong. Thanks for all your messages of support.”

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