Premier League

October 20, 2012

Full-time

Manchester United

4 - 2

Stoke City

Premier League

14:00 +00:00, October 20, 2012

Old Trafford, England

Rooney laments defensive frailty

Two-goal hero Wayne Rooney celebrated a personal milestone at Old Trafford this afternoon but warned Manchester United they must buck up their defence if their Premier League title challenge is not to end in disaster.

United found themselves behind for the seventh time in 11 games this season, and have now conceded seven goals in four Premier League home games.

"Of course it is a concern," Rooney said. "We can't keep doing that. No disrespect to Stoke, but better opposition will punish us. We need to keep working and keep defending well.

"Hopefully soon we will get the players back who can provide a bit of cover for us because if we want to be successful this season, we can't keep doing that.''

Michael Kightly struck after United had responded with three goals of their own, meaning Rooney's second was required to keep the Red Devils four points adrift of pacesetters Chelsea.

"We keep starting badly,'' Sir Alex Ferguson said. "Early goal against Fulham. Early goal against Tottenham. Early goal today.

"We are giving ourselves uphill fights. You don't want it to happen and hopefully we will get it sorted. The second in particular was a really slack one for us to lose.''

Stoke boss Tony Pulis said he always knew Rooney would pose a threat for the visitors.

"I was disappointed to see him on the team sheet,'' Pulis said. "I thought Alex might have rested him today. Wayne is a great player. You watch him at times and his movement is absolutely first-class.''

Rooney's partnership with Van Persie looks as though it might pay big dividends over the coming months, with both men equally adept at moving wide and creating a chance for others, as the Dutchman did today.

"We are getting more of an understanding,'' Rooney said. "That is the first game we have started together up front and we have both scored. I am sure it will get better.''

It was only Stoke's second defeat of the season, not a disastrous statistic considering they have played all the title challengers.

And, whilst Chelsea have a clear advantage at present, Pulis is predicting a thrilling race.

"They have all got players in their teams who can change games,'' he said. "Manchester United have leg-beaters. They can beat you with a pass or with movement.

"That is what great teams have, all mixed up into one. Manchester United have got it, Chelsea, Arsenal. It will be a great Premier League this season. Tottenham got beaten today but they have got some outstanding players and obviously you have Manchester City in there.''

Scoring Summary

Manchester United Stoke City
Wayne Rooney (27')Wayne Rooney (og 11')
Robin Van Persie (44')Michael Kightly (58')
Danny Welbeck (46') 
Wayne Rooney (65')