Ronaldo the ringmaster as Welbeck produces star turn

Manchester United 5 Stoke City 0

The present was already looking quite good enough yesterday when the gangling shape of Danny Welbeck, a striker still 11 days short of his 18th birthday, stepped up to provide a taste of the future.

The chances of a teenager from Longsight upstaging Cristiano Ronaldo seemed unlikely when Welbeck took the field for his Premier League debut, just past the hour. That changed in the time it took the gangling forward to take on a ball just beyond the centre circle, control it, exchange it with a team-mate with and unravel a 35-yard goal. Not bad for a player 21 minutes into his Premier League career attacking the Stretford End and the delight etched on his face last night showed how badly he will want more. "I wouldn't say I've dreamt about this but I've thought about it every minute of my life since I started playing football, really, and there's nothing better than it, to tell you the truth," he said.

Ronaldo did what he could to wrest back the spotlight. His first successfully deposited free kick of the season here took his personal goal tally for United to 100 in 253 games and he added the 101st from another free-kick a minute from time. He has climbed to joint second among the league's top scorers, despite not playing until September 27. But Welbeck took the day.

It all contributed to annihilation bordering on embarrassment for a Stoke side whose performance explained their paltry pickings of two points and three goals on their travels and whose left back Andy Griffin - substituted towards the end as Ronaldo ran riot - will particularly want to forget the afternoon. Only one Rory Delap throw caused problems and the left flank was a open door by the end. The consolation, their manager Tony Pulis said, was "the fact we've got another game on Saturday and its fresh game and we don't have to come here again."

The day wasn't the best for Fabio Capello, either, after Sir Alex Ferguson's disclosure that Wayne Rooney, missing here through a chest infection and calf strain, and Rio Ferdinand, absent after straining his back in training on Friday, will miss England's friendly in Berlin on Wednesday. But from the second minute, when Thomas Sorensen was deceived by the right-to-left swerve on Ronaldo's dipping left foot kick and watched it fly through his hands into the roof of his net, United looked perfectly capable of living without them.

Though Stoke showed some a defensive steadfastness in the 40 minutes that followed, the only Staffordshire visitors who managed to get anywhere near Ronaldo were their supporters who - apparently concluding that the only way of translating the club's home form to their travels is take a little of the Britannia Stadium with them - provided Ronaldo with his first real taste of the vitriol he might have expected after last summer. In what proved the only absorbing match of the afternoon, they got at him and warmed to the challenge when, perhaps unwisely, he blew them an ironic kiss.

But risks come attached to baiting a man who, as Ferguson put it, is "right on song" his speed "coming back with every game." It was Ronaldo's jinking run across the edge of Stoke's box that presaged a through ball, on the stroke of half time, which Michael Carrick strode on to and, reducing Salif Diao to a shadow, thumped left-footed past Sorenson.

Dimitar Berbatov moves in more mysterious ways. Those who challenge his goal record overlook the vast contribution he has made in half a dozen of Ronaldo's nine strikes but his seond league goal - United's third - saw the Bulgarian bringing down a Carlos Tevez ball immaculately and finishing, right-footed.

Sorensen's struggle with the artillery which United wheeled out as the half wore on was painful at times. A second dipping Ronaldo free kick panicked him and Andy Griffin hacked clear. It had turned into a Carling Cup situation by then, Ferguson also introducing Angolan striker Manucho, recipient of that exchanged pass with Welbeck as the Mancunian raced through for his goal, and Darron Gibson for Tevez, though his snatched second half shots telegraphed the fact he, for one, lacks confidence.

That can't be said of Welbeck, who by 5pm last night had re-watched his goal several times on a video monitor. "He'll remember it for the rest of his life," Sir Alex Ferguson said. "But I think he's level headed, he's intelligent and a few lads in the dressing room will be knocking him down, don't worry."

News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all