Humble Pulis will offer Ferguson no advice on Europe
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Stoke City 2
No football manager can get to the top without possessing resilient self-belief but if there is an urge to blow his own trumpet lurking within Tony Pulis, he hides it well.
There is craft as well as graft to his current Stoke team but offer this as ammunition to put a few detractors in their place and he'll insist he couldn't care less. Suggest likewise that establishing Stoke in the top half of the Premier League and guiding them to the last 32 of the Europa League might reflect rather well on his ability and he'll say that it is his chairman, Peter Coates, who deserves credit.
He was only ever likely to laugh, then, at the idea of passing on tips to Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini on what it takes to succeed in Europe's second tier.
"They will do it the way they do it," he said. "They have worked in Europe for a long time and I think they will both be really competitive. Both clubs will want to win it.
"Alex will be ever so disappointed they have not qualified [in the Champions League] and will have the bit between his teeth. We could have City against United in the final."
Stoke, in any event, still have much to learn. Such as how to avoid the Sunday drubbings they suffered at Sunderland and Bolton after Thursday games in Kiev and Tel-Aviv.
"Without a doubt we were really tired coming back from those games," said Pulis, revealing that he walked through his front door after Stoke's final Europa League group match in Istanbul last Wednesday at a quarter to five on Thursday morning.
A repeat was averted on Saturday, largely because Pulis, safe in the knowledge that Stoke's progress was secured, had left his entire starting 11 at home. "It helped us going to Besiktas not needing to win to qualify," he said. "If that had been the case I'd have probably taken some of the players who started today, although for the first 20 minutes it looked like some of them had been on the plane."
If that had not changed, Pulis added, "they were going to get it at half-time", but in the event an early penalty for Wolves altered the course of the game in a way that favoured Stoke.
It prompted Pulis to substitute Jonathan Woodgate, who had already been booked for a foul on winger Matt Jarvis when a trip on the same player had referee Anthony Taylor pointing to the spot. Woodgate was lucky not to be sent off but Pulis replaced him anyway with Jermaine Pennant, who gave Stoke the pace to attack Wolves on both flanks.
Pennant and Matthew Etherington became the key figures, along with Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch in the middle, in helping their side achieve a fourth straight win for the first time in the Premier League and leave Wolves still precariously close to the bottom three after four defeats in five games.
Walters earned the free kick that led to Robert Huth beating Wayne Hennessey with a 30-yard shot deflected off Kevin Doyle before an eight-pass move involving both Pennant and Etherington concluded with Crouch's 99th league goal.
Scorers: Wolves Hunt pen 17. Stoke Doyle og 58, Crouch 70. Substitutes: Wolves Guedioura 6 (Milijas, 75), Ebanks-Blake 5 (Doyle, 75), Hammill (Hunt, 80). Stoke Pennant 9 (Woodgate, 19), Palacios (Whelan, 83), Fuller (Etherington, 88). Booked: Wolves Milijas, Berra. Stoke Woodgate, Shawcross, Whitehead. Man of the match Pennant. Match rating 5/10. Possession: Wolves 58% Stoke 42%. Attempts on target: Wolves 5 Stoke 4. Referee A Taylor (Cheshire). Attendance 24,684.
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