Champagne Charlie inspires historic win

Posted by James Whittaker

Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty ImagesCharlie Adam was the hero of the day for Stoke with his brace leading the Potters to a massive win over Man United.

Stoke started their match against Manchester United in the bottom three but ended it in a heady 11th place as they beat the champions 2-1 at a windy and Charlie Adam-inspired Britannia.

- Report: Stoke stun United
- Match report: Stoke City 2-1 Man United

Not since 1984 have the Potters got the better of their visitors, and while that was the season the men in red and white were relegated, no such comparisons will dampen the spirit of the players and fans on Saturday night. A win against such illustrious opponents was the perfect remedy to a shambolic deadline day with every player lucky enough to start showing that they are more than up for the battle ahead of them to remain in the league.

The hero on the day though was Adam, a player I have criticised plenty in the past. It was quite simply his best game for Stoke as he showed his worth in all areas of the pitch, visibly growing in confidence after his second thunderbolt of a strike. The change in shape seemed to suit the Scot and he remains top-scorer for the side and maintains his excellent form at this most crucial time for the club.

I was interested to see how the revised shape of 4-4-2 would work and was a little surprised to see Peter Odemwingie on the wing and Jon Walters up top with Peter Crouch. It's not a combination that fared particularly well in the first period as the game plan seemed to be to drop the ball in over the opposition defence with Crouch and Walters struggling to get onto the end of any through balls. Odemwingie clearly looked out of place on the wing, but he too grew into the game and put in an incredibly selfless and disciplined performance to support the team up top and in defence.

On the other side, Marko Arnautovic got his chance ahead of Oussama Assaidi and he as well proved to be a useful and effective out ball; his control and footwork meant that Man United had to pay close attention to him. It was a shame he got injured in a game that saw four players leave the field, with at least one visiting the hospital, but I think Assaidi's introduction and associated pace came at just the right time in the match.

I could go on and on looking at each player because each more than played their part in yet another display of grit and determination; I lost count of the number of times a player threw their body in front of a shot. It was the perfect response to the reality of a relegation battle and exactly what the manager and fans wanted.

In fact, it makes a mockery of some of the club’s more hysterical fans calling for the head of Mark Hughes who has, in his first six months at the club, beaten Chelsea and Man United for the first time ever in the Premier League. They're perhaps not the games he'd prefer to be winning, but they will do the squad's confidence a world of good and give a glimpse of what the side is capable of with a bit of confidence on and off the pitch.

It's crucial that the side now build on that confidence in the coming weeks and Hughes is left with a difficult decision to make on whether or not to bring Steven N'Zonzi back into a side that handled his absence effortlessly. You could quite easily argue that Stoke's midfield shone without him and introduced a tempo so often missing when the Frenchman features. N'Zonzi is a talented player but one who likes to play to the beat of his own drum, often slowing play down unnecessarily. It would be unfair to write off his chances though, and I'd certainly be interested to see how he would get on with a meaningful outlet to feed on both flanks.

He may or may not get that chance in a set of decidedly tricky fixtures for the rest of the month. For me, the key will be to get to March outside of the bottom three when the fixture list starts to look a bit kinder. Much like I've been saying all season, it's important not to get carried away after a win or indeed a defeat; the fans are crucial to the team's fortunes and if both can maintain their level of commitment over this pivotal period, then things will be just fine.

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