Stoke City manager Mark Hughes believes Manchester United were weaker for dropping captain Wayne Rooney after masterminding Saturday's 2-0 win at the Britannia Stadium.
Rooney has come in for criticism this term due to mixed form and was introduced off the bench at half-time after Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic had put the game beyond Louis van Gaal's side.
The Dutchman faces an uncertain future at Old Trafford after a fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions and Hughes felt the United skipper's first-half absence helped the hosts.
"I'm sure there were reasons why Wayne didn't start the game," Hughes said.
"There's a lot of thinking that goes into which team you pick as a manager and you go with the one that you think will win the game.
"It's a tough period over Christmas, we've got a tough fixture against Everton, United have got Chelsea so you've got to work with your resources.
"Maybe that's the reason he didn't start the game. From our point of view, a team without Wayne Rooney is a team that maybe isn't quite as strong.
"But maybe he wasn't fit enough to start."
Stoke have now beaten United, Chelsea and Manchester City at home in the Premier League this season and Hughes was delighted with another impressive display against one of the traditional heavyweights.
"Certainly in the first half I thought we were excellent, it would have taken a very good team to stay with us," he added.
"The second half was a different game from our point of view because you expect a reaction and to a certain extent that's what we got.
"They had more possession and were a bit dynamic so we had to be more resolute but I thought we remained a threat on the break.
"We had good opportunities and should have scored more really. All in all, it was a very good professional performance."