Battling Stoke force draw to end United's perfect start
REUTERS - Manchester United's perfect start to the season ended with a 2-2 draw at Stoke City, whose battling performance in a see-saw game denied the leaders a fourth successive Premier League victory.
Stoke set out to stretch United with long balls wide and took the lead on 43 minutes when Darren Fletcher found Mame Diouf, whose whipped cross was bundled over the line by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. It was the Cameroonian's first goal for Stoke and the first United had conceded this season.
Jose Mourinho's men probably spared themselves a halftime dressing down over their poor defending by bouncing back two minutes later with a bizarre equaliser that cannoned into the net off the back of Marcus Rashford's head from Paul Pogba's forceful header.
United have shown their resilience by scoring consistently after the break and took the lead on 57 minutes with Romelu Lukaku's fourth league goal of the season.
But Stoke would not be beaten and, after Jese had been denied by David de Gea's instinctive save, Choupo-Moting scored his second with a far-post header from a corner.
"My aim is always to score or get an assist so I'm very happy we didn't lose and I'm happy for my first goals for Stoke - I hope to continue like that," said the Cameroonian.
"A striker is always rated by assists and goals but I always try to play well and give 100% for the team."
Both keepers pulled off excellent saves late on as the action pinged between both areas and Lukaku should have done better when close in on goal with almost the final kick of the game.
Mourinho blamed the international break for a United showing that failed to match the high-octane performances that preceded it.
"It was a difficult match for different reasons. My players, after the international break, are not the same," he told BT Sport.
"They weren't performing at their normal level but we were in the game, we fought hard and we were closer to winning than losing."
But he admitted that Stoke, for whom former United player Darren Ferguson was excellent in midfield, probably deserved the point.
"One team tried to win, one team tried to get the point but they fought hard to get that point - and probably deserved (it)."
United are now joint leaders with Manchester City on 10 points.
(Reporting by Neil Robinson, editing by Pritha Sarkar, Neville Dalton)