Premier League - Stoke halt United's perfect start
The England forward nodded home Matthew Etherington’s corner on 52 minutes to cancel out Nani’s supreme first-half opener for United in what was always a breathless affair.
In truth, Stoke were worthy of a point against a United side who failed to hit the heights of their opening five games in the league. They had scored 21 goals in five straight wins, but could only manage one on a fraught evening.
United were without Wayne Rooney after he suffered a hamstring strain during training on Friday.
Rooney was busy on Twitter throughout the match, saying he is hopeful of returning to the United first team for their Champions League clash with Basel at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson might be needing a quick recovery from the England striker after watching Javier Hernandez limp out of the action early on in Stoke with a dead leg.
The referee decided there was no foul play, much to the anger of a furious Ferguson on the touchline.
Hernandez tried to continue, but was replaced moments later by Michael Owen.
Despite Dimitar Berbatov producing a woeful performance before being by replaced by Danny Welbeck in the second half, United did not let the injuries affect their concentration as they grabbed the lead on 27 minutes courtesy of a move of some beauty.
Nani then lifted the ball over the bar after an awful passback by Shawcross towards Begovic was closed down by Ashley Young.
Nani looked certain to score, but hurried the shot much to the bemusement of his team-mates.
As it was, United had to rely on De Gea for a half-time lead as he dived at full stretch to claw a stinging effort by Jon Walters past the post when it seemed likely to bring Stoke level.
Stoke never lacked spirit in trailing and De Gea was posted missing when Crouch rose to bullet home Etherington’s corner for a deserved equaliser.
It was his first goal against United and meant he had scored for six Premier League clubs.
He might have added a second moments later when Rio Ferdinand misjudged the flight of a ball. Crouch nipped in on the blind side, but saw De Gea clip the ball over the bar, even though he did not know much about it.
United might have had a penalty when Patrice Evra’s shot seemed to hit the arm of Shawcross while United substitute Ryan Giggs somehow volleyed over in the death throes of the match, but that would have been harsh on the home side.