Manchester United forced Stoke City to a 1-1 draw in the first Premier League game of 2015 at the Britannia on New Year’s Day.
Ryan Shawcross turned home Peter Crouch’s knockdown from close range early on, but Radamel Falcao tapped in Wayne Rooney’s corner from a Michael Carrick flick-on on 26 minutes.
Crouch’s header came back off the woodwork following Marko Arnautovic’s fantastic free-kick as Stoke failed to complete a third successive win.
The point leaves Louis van Gaal’s side in third place, six points behind Manchester City and nine points behind leaders Chelsea, who are due at home to Sunderland and away to Tottenham Hotspur respectively. Stoke at in tenth place in the table.
United made two changes to the side that started the stalemate with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, with Luke Shaw making his first start since the win over Arsenal on November 22, alongside Chris Smalling.
Jonathan Walters replaced the injured Bojan Krkic in Mark Hughes’ starting XI.
The first Premier League game of 2015 got off to a rousing start, with Shawcross needing just two minutes to score the first goal of the new calendar year. Crouch provided his 53rd top-flight assists when he headed a corner goalward and Shawcross diverted the ball home.
United struggled to find a breakthrough, despite enjoying possession in the opening quarter and were lucky not to have fallen behind by two goals, when Mame Biram Diouf fluffed a one-on-one with David de Gea moments later.
Falcao poked home to restore parity for the Red Devils, who dictated play but couldn’t peel off ahead of their host before the break.
Stoke had a decent shout for a spot kick turned down by referee Mark Oliver five minutes after the hour mark after Smalling blocked Crouch’s header with his high-flying arm in the area.
Robin van Persie had managed to record few touches prior to the 68th minute, but the Dutch striker almost grabbed United’s second goal, only to aim wide after brilliantly controlling a Juan Mata delivery with his chest.
Marko Anautovic then sent a cross into the visitors’ goal area for Crouch, who was disappointed to watch his header come off the woodwork.
Both in-form sides searched for a winner but to no avail, having to settle for a draw.