Peter Crouch celebrates his equaliser after Manchester United failed to handle his height in the box. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

One of the most fascinating aspects of this beautiful game of ours is how different styles work for different teams. While we all ooh and ah over the intricate patterns created by the likes of Barcelona and Arsenal, it's not always the clubs that play the prettiest football that get the blood pumping.

Case in point, Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. It was a 100 mile-per-hour track meet that showcased qualities not always appreciated by snobbish connoisseurs who believe the game should only be played one way. Thank goodness for the honest, hard working, folk of middle England eh!

With the backing of one of the loudest and most passionate crowds I've heard and seen in recent years in the Premier League, Stoke tore up the proverbial formbook because in theory the Potters should've been lambs to the slaughter. After all this was a club that hadn't taken a point of visitor Manchester United in the Premier League era or had a sniff of a win since 1984.

Stoke though had a game plan and that plan was markedly different from the supposed cosmopolitan sides of the division.

Instead of trying to match individual versus individual that both Arsenal and Chelsea tried in previous weeks before falling by a combined score of 11-3, Tony Pulis utilized and played to the strength of his club.

Manchester United is denied an early penalty after Javier Hernandez is floored by a tackle from Jonathan Woodgate. (Jon Super/AP Photo)

I'm sure fans of United will point to referee, Peter Walton swallowing his whistle on a couple of occasions as the catalyst for dropped points but looking at both penalty shouts objectively you can see why they weren't given.

Hunger, desire, commitment and work rate are the words you would use to describe the 90-minute shift the Potters put in and surprise, surprise, it worked. Whether this blueprint will be picked up by other clubs as the prepare to face the United doomsday machine, we'll have to wait however for the first time this season, it did force the Champions into answering some uncomfortable questions.

Jonathan Woodgate got the slimmest of touches on the ball when challenging Javier Hernandez, which is surely what Walton witnessed otherwise he would've had no choice but to point to the spot and send off Woodgate.

And for anyone to claim deliberate handball against Ryan Shawcross is surely a case of Red Devil tinted sunglasses. Patrice Evra certainly connected well with his drive but Shawcross was turning his back and if anything it was ball to upper shoulder. The reaction of Sir Alex Ferguson on the United bench also told volumes. The Scotsman is usually the most vociferous of penalty appealers. He barely moved.

The same couldn't be said for his counterpart, Pulis, who just about kicked every ball, contested every challenge and inspired his team to a famous point.

Since returning for his second spell at Stoke, the 56 year-old has become one of the most astute managers in the business. Initially the club had limited funds and his operating budget wouldn't have covered Wayne Rooney's salary however with Premiers League stability, Pulis has been able to break the club transfer record in four consecutive years.

His buys have been sensible and fit into the mold of a coach who completely understands the game and his side. There is no room for vanity purchases.

In this most recent transfer window, Woodgate and Mathew Upson, two footballing center-halves were both signed of free transfers while record signing Peter Crouch has scored goals wherever he has played.

For the record, Pulis was one of the youngest professional footballers to attain a UEFA 'A' license at the tender age of 21.

With two wingers hugging the touchline in the form of Mathew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, the perceived knock on Stoke that they're strictly a bunch of long ball merchants is ridiculous. Yes, they have the Rory Delap weapon but name me a coach who wouldn't want to get the ball into the box at every possible opportunity. After all, isn't this the area where 90% of goals are scored?

Patrice Evra is sent flying by a tackle from Glenn Whelan which earned the Stoke midfielder a yellow card. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Ultimately it takes courage to go head-to-head with the champion, especially in United's current form, however, if other managers decide especially on their own turf (no one wins at Old Trafford) to use the qualities that City showed, this title race may just be a little more interesting than we originally envisaged.

Conventional wisdom dictates that only the big boys can win trophies in this day and age but then again the same thing was said decades ago when Nottingham Forest proved that the little guy could go around and tweak noses.

Pulis and Stoke remind me of Brian Clough and Forest. For history to repeat itself would be a timely reminder that not everyone has to look and play the same way to be successful.