Match analysis: Manchester United 4, Stoke City 2
"WELL it's Stoke City playing all the football here", bellowed the TV commentator, seconds before they conceded an equaliser to make the score 1-1.
It was that kind of afternoon at Old Trafford on Saturday as you applauded Stoke's fine play one minute, but winced at some of their defending the next.
As neutrals and partisans alike were readily acknowledging, Stoke were playing some thoroughly decent football at one of the great citadels of the English game.
The ugly ducklings haven't exactly turned into beautiful swans overnight, but their feathers are beginning to look a lot whiter these days.
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Neat triangles were replacing hopeful hoofs and desperate clearances as Stoke frequently played their way out of trouble in a manner befitting Saturday's grand theatre.
Those 'Kick It Out' T-shirts, worn by players before kick-off as part of an anti-racism campaign, could no longer double up as a cynical comment on Stoke's approach to the beautiful game.
Fluent football was also leading to penetrative football, particularly in the first half-hour or so, as Stoke were clearly out-punching their hosts in their very own ring.
But this is a transitional phase in Stoke's development and so their supporters, possibly a little confused by the spectacle unfolding before them, were left cheering much of their team's football, but simultaneously lamenting some of their defending.
It's a cross-over phase Tony Waddington will also have presided over once-upon-a-time, for Alan Hudson and Jimmy Greenhoff didn't drop from the sky on day one of his astonishing reign as Stoke manager.
We can only hope the future doesn't entirely mirror the past, however, for no-one wants to see the roof blow off the Seddon Stand any day soon.
So Stoke lost yet again at Old Trafford, and comfortably so in the end, but not before extending United's repertoire more than they had ever managed in four previous Premier League visits.
That first 25 to 30 minutes was pinch-yourself time as Stoke, not their exalted hosts, played the better, more incisive football en route to carving out much the clearer chances.
David de Gea had already clawed out Charlie Adam's cheeky shot to the near post by the time he parried a Jon Walters effort after the Ireland international, having played into the area for Peter Crouch to touch back and Michael Kightly to dummy, so nearly crowned Stoke's best move of the day with a terrific goal.
Crouch had also forced a near-post save from a far-post header when he couldn't quite nod back for others better placed.
If only the big man had possessed Wayne Rooney's unerring accuracy with his head.
Just about everyone was fooled into thinking Ryan Shawcross had headed home Adam's right-wing free-kick, but TV replays soon revealed Rooney's fatal role in Stoke's breakthrough.
He was to have his revenge, of course, but only after United had taken some time to eventually conjure a killer final ball against their resolute visitors.
It was Robin van Persie delivering from the left for Rooney to sneak between two defenders and bury the kind of header accounting for a substantial portion of his 200 goals in club football.
United suddenly cranked up the heat as a Paul Scholes piledriver crashed into Dean Whitehead and a Danny Welbeck curler clipped the bar.
And the game was effectively lost as Stoke didn't just concede seconds before half-time, but a few seconds after as well.
Van Persie can be elusive, but not so elusive that Stoke can be excused for granting him the kind of space he found at the near post to exquisitely convert Antonio Valencia's low ball from the right for 2-1.
And then it was 3-1, with prawn sandwiches still smeared across many a lip, when Rooney was allowed an age to bend an inviting cross from the right for an unmarked Welbeck to head unchallenged past Asmir Begovic.
Chins dropped momentarily in the visiting ranks, but Kightly's ability to run fearlessly at the opposition paid handsome dividends just before the hour when he broke from half-way and marauded through the heart of United's defence to prod home via the inside of the right-hand post.
Stoke's sing-along support was dreaming again amid their various arias, but within six minutes it was effectively all over.
Robert Huth had headed behind a free-kick – one he himself had conceded – with the kind of defending to which we have perhaps become too casually accustomed to seeing.
What is far less familiar is the sight of a right-wing corner being missed by the first head to leave the ball pinging around before falling to Rooney's predatory instincts four yards out.
Horrible defending, and in such sharp contrast to so much of Stoke's other efforts.
Their only flirt with redemption came when substitute Michael Owen greeted a near-post corner with a flick of the right boot that would have hit the net had Van Persie not headed over.
It just wasn't Stoke's day.
But for a while, even at Old Trafford, it had been.
And that was the whole point on Saturday.