Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United haunted by Peter Crouch's big impact

Stoke boss Tony Pulis hailed Peter Crouch after the club's record signing opened his Potters account with the equaliser in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium.

Crouch, recruited for £10million from Tottenham last month on transfer deadline day, headed home Matthew Etherington's corner seven minutes into the second half, cancelling out Nani's 27th-minute strike for the visitors.

The tall striker became only the sixth player to have scored for six different Premier League clubs and Pulis was delighted with Crouch's all-round performance.

"I thought he was magnificent and that is why we spent decent money on him," Pulis said.

"The other players will learn off him because he has got tremendous technique. At times they (United) just could not handle him."

United struggled throughout the contest to get to grips with Crouch, who might have had a hat-trick.

That he did not was partly down to his own finishing - he admitted afterwards he felt he "could have got the winner, but then you can't be greedy" - as well as the efforts of Red Devils goalkeeper David de Gea, who managed to deflect one close-range attempt from the 30-year-old over the bar.

United's stand-in captain Patrice Evra feels De Gea's confidence is improving and that the 20-year-old has a big future ahead of him.

"Our goalkeeper was superb," Evra said. "David is doing very well. His confidence is going up. You can see when he makes a great save, all the players are very happy for him.

"We are all behind him and support him.

"He had a difficult start, but if you see the game against Chelsea (last weekend), he made some great saves and here he made some great saves. I am really confident in him.

"I am looking forward and he can be one of the best."

United suffered injury setbacks in the build-up to the game, with Wayne Rooney - who manager Sir Alex Ferguson expects to be sidelined for "more than a week" - not making the trip to Staffordshire due to a hamstring problem and Jonny Evans having to be replaced at the back by Antonio Valencia after experiencing trouble with his ankle in the warm-up.

When play got under way Javier Hernandez was the next man to be struck down, hurt early on after being tackled by Jonathan Woodgate.

"This is Manchester United - we don't like to have excuses," Evra said.

"We played the game with Antonio Valencia at right-back and Phil Jones in left defence, we lost Javier at the beginning of the game, and Wayne, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic were not here, but we don't like excuses. It is difficult to come to Stoke when you have lost that type of player, though."

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