Crouch, recruited for £10million from Tottenham last month on transfer deadline day, headed home Matthew Etherington's corner seven minutes into the second half, cancelling out Nani's 27th-minute strike for the visitors.

The tall striker became only the sixth player to have scored for six different Premier League clubs and Pulis was delighted with Crouch's all-round performance.

"I thought he was magnificent and that is why we spent decent money on him," Pulis told

"The other players will learn off him because he has got tremendous technique. At times they (United) just could not handle him."

United struggled throughout the contest to get to grips with Crouch, who might have had a hat-trick.

That he did not was partly down to his own finishing - he admitted afterwards he felt he "could have got the winner, but then you can't be greedy" - as well as the efforts of Red Devils goalkeeper David de Gea, who managed to deflect one close-range attempt from the 30-year-old over the bar.

De Gea had earlier pulled off superb saves to tip Andy Wilkinson's drive onto the woodwork and push Jon Walters' shot wide.

The Spaniard has endured a tough start to the season and looked unconvincing at times yesterday when high balls came into the box, but he certainly demonstrated his shot-stopping skills, something that did not escape the attention of Pulis.

"In the first half I thought the two saves the goalkeeper made...people have been questioning him, but they were two wonderful stops," Pulis said.

"The one off Wilkinson must be the save of the season so far."

United's stand-in captain Patrice Evra feels De Gea's confidence is improving and that the 20-year-old has a big future ahead of him.

"Our goalkeeper was superb," Evra told MUTV.

"David is doing very well. His confidence is going up. You can see when he makes a great save, all the players are very happy for him.

"We are all behind him and support him. He had a difficult start, but if you see the game against Chelsea (last weekend), he made some great saves and here he made some great saves.

"I am really confident in him. I am looking forward and he can be one of the best."

United suffered injury setbacks in the build-up to the game, with Wayne Rooney - who manager Sir Alex Ferguson expects to be sidelined for "more than a week" - not making the trip to Staffordshire due to a hamstring problem and Jonny Evans having to be replaced at the back by Antonio Valencia after experiencing trouble with his ankle in the warm-up.

When play got under way Javier Hernandez was the next man to be struck down, hurt early on after being tackled by Jonathan Woodgate and subsequently substituted for Michael Owen in the 11th minute.

Although Evra insists United are not looking for excuses over a result which brought their 100% start to the league campaign to an end, the Frenchman admitted their task was made more difficult by the loss of key personnel.

"This is Manchester United - we don't like to have excuses," Evra said.

"We played the game with Antonio Valencia at right-back and Phil Jones in left defence, we lost Javier at the beginning of the game, and Wayne, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic were not here, but we don't like excuses.

"It is difficult to come to Stoke when you have lost that type of player, though.

"I am glad we don't have to come here every week. When you have played against Stoke, you need five games to recover."

It was the first time Stoke had taken points off United in the Premier League since their promotion to the top-flight in 2008.

Ryan Giggs squandered an opportunity to win it for the Red Devils in stoppage time, but given the Potters have also held Chelsea to a draw and beaten Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium this term, overall Evra was content with the outcome.

"I want to win every game, but I will be honest - it is a good point," Evra said.

"It is really difficult to come here and get three points. We have done it in the last few years but always with a goal in the last few minutes.

"I thought we were going to do it with Ryan but Chelsea, Liverpool, big teams have come here and get only one point or even lose.

"We have to congratulate everyone. It was not an easy game."

The draw was enough for United to leapfrog Manchester City and return to the top of the table, but they are only ahead of their derby rivals, who had earlier beaten Everton 2-0, on goal difference.