Martin Smith: Old Trafford positives can drive Potters forward
I SUPPOSE it's a good and bad thing I walked away from Old Trafford with contrasting emotions on Saturday.
On the one hand you couldn't help but be impressed by the way in which Stoke approached the game, and could even genuinely have been at least two goals to the good by half-time.
But on the other hand we still lost and I can never be truly happy when that happens.
It was disappointing that on the very day we managed to discover some menace and scoring form in a game like this one that our defence, usually the bedrock upon which we build everything, was found so wanting.
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We didn't pick up their strikers and, while the movement and pace of such talented individuals will always make life hard for defenders, it seemed that our own organisation and discipline was to blame for conceding four goals.
Maybe it was the fact that Man Utd fielded three strikers which undid us, as our two centre-halves seemed to be marking space rather than opponents.
I have no doubt that TP and his coaching team will be closely watching the video to determine what went wrong in a bid to make sure it doesn't happen again.
And perhaps they could look at my other moan from Saturday?
Namely, why Peter Crouch, below, goes to the back post when crosses are being sent in, instead of attacking the ball in the middle?
I counted several occasions on Saturday, especially in the first half, when good crosses into the danger zone were cleared from the middle by defenders, while Crouch hung around hopefully at the back post.
You look at the position Rooney and Welbeck took up for their headed goals and then wonder why our big target-man is not doing the same sort of thing?
However, the best thing to do is to take the positives out of the game as we continued to build on what has been a promising start to the season.
It isn't an exaggeration to say that we could have been two or three goals ahead before United woke up and some of our football, particularly in the opening 45 minutes, was excellent.
Charlie Adam has his best game yet for Stoke and came desperately close to scoring his first goal for the club.
We asked some serious questions at Old Trafford and had the home supporters shuffling uncomfortably in their seats for stretches of the game.
The trick now is to take that sort of performance, and the one we produced at Stamford Bridge a few weeks ago, and replicate it against the lesser lights in the division.
There may not be any easy games in the Premier League, but some matches are less difficult than others.
And now that we've got that gruesome opening sequence of fixtures out of the way we have to start recording some wins.
Our latest run may only show one win in eight so far this season, and five wins in 30 stretching back to the start of 2012, but we're playing far better than those statistics suggest.
I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't expecting us to play some of the very good football we've produced so far this season and I am delighted by much of what I've seen.
But the same argument which applies when we're accused of not playing good football but still managing to grind out results still stands.
It's the results which matter and we have to start tucking some of these under our belt.
Key to us going on an extended run of positive results is scoring goals... and we're wondering how long it may be before we see Michael Owen start to make an impact on the team.
So far he's had fleeting substitute appearances to whet our appetites.
There is going to come the time, though, when we see what our real plans are.
I wasn't sure what we had in mind for him when he joined and will confess to still not really having any clear idea.
It should be interesting to see, though, when it does happen, as I'm sure it will once our management team have decided that he's properly fit.
Saturday's game against Sunderland offers us a chance to get our season on track.
Despite all of the hype about them, the reality is that Martin O'Neil's team have been very indifferent for quite some time now and seem to be relying solely on one player, Steven Fletcher, for their goals.
This is a game we should be looking to win and which many Stokies will be expecting us to win.
There's no reason for us to have anything to fear from this fixture.
It should be one we have already targeted as a potential three points and if we can produce some of that adventure, passing and attacking play which was on display at Old Trafford, then we'll be fine.